We know that young children learn through play. We also know that a caring adult is a young child’s best teacher so we have designed a hands-on learning space that helps you develop your children’s early literacy skills while having fun together. While this type of library learning center is becoming more common in libraries across the country, the Play Learn Grow room is the first of its kind in Milwaukee County.
This space is different than play areas in restaurants or stores or even our train area because it is play with a purpose – building the foundation that helps children learn. All elements were carefully chosen to support early learning and be developmentally appropriate. The “Play Learn Grow” sign outside the room can be used to develop letter recognition, color identification and patterning. There are labels and signage throughout the room, providing plenty of other opportunities for print recognition. The Good Night Moon display is also an “I Spy” game. Many of the interactive play areas have “Ways to Play” suggestions that parents can duplicate at home. You don’t need a complete store play set to get the same learning benefits. Activities can be repeated during a trip down the grocery store aisles or you can set up your own pretend grocery store at home with empty food jars and boxes.
We like to think of the Play Learn Grow room as more of a learning lab for little ones than as a play room. For that reason, the room is limited to babies through kindergartners. All of the activities are built around developing the early literacy skills that children need to have before they can actually learn to read and write – Vocabulary, Phonological Awareness, Excitement about books and reading, Print Awareness, Letter Knowledge, and Narrative Skills. It is not as complicated as it sounds. Researchers have identified everyday activities that will help grow those skills - Talking, Singing & Rhyming, Reading, Writing, and Playing. (For more information about Early Literacy click here.)
Adult – child interaction is the key to making the most of the Play Learn Grown experience. We expect parents and care givers to be actively involved in their children’s play while using the space. It is a strictly enforced No Phone Zone. We know there are times adults need to visit with other adults while watching children play. We encourage you to use the comfortable seating area near the picture books for those times. We also expect parents to be modeling appropriate library behavior for their children – quiet indoor voices, treating toys and books carefully, sharing, and cleaning up so others can also use and enjoy the space. We know sharing and cleaning up doesn’t come naturally to toddlers, but with enough gentle reminders they will start to catch on.
Of course, the most important thing for our little learners and their grown-ups is to have fun. So we invite you and your special little people to Play Learn and Grow together. (For more information and pictures of the Early Literacy Center, click here.)