Baby Programs · Library Programs · Toddler Programs

Toddler Explorers

I’m super excited to tell you about a new program I’m trying this summer: Toddler Explorers. It’s an informal, weekly drop-in program for kids from 6-35 months (so, babies, one’s and two’s). I’m partnering with another librarian to do this (hi, Stephanie!), which is a good thing because we had 80 people for our first session last week! That was way more than we expected, but it went really well and we got a lot of positive feedback.

The concept is simple. We set up different stations around our program room for the kids and their parents to explore at their own pace. We had the room open for an hour, which seemed like the right amount of time. These were our stations for week one:

Dot Art (Toddler Explorers at the Ela Library)

Dot art with taped words. I’ve been admiring the Hands-On Ones and Twos programs Kelsey from Library Bonanza has been doing for a while and was excited to try one of her ideas. We made words on construction paper with thin drafting tape and then the kids used dot art markers to dot all around the paper (Kelsey had used finger paint, but we weren’t looking to get that messy). When they were done, we pulled up the tape so you could still read the word. This was a couple days before Father’s Day, so we encouraged people to turn these into gifts (we did words like love, hugs, and daddy).

Rice Sensory Bins (Toddler Explorers at the Ela Library)

Rice sensory bins with large plastic animals, shovels, measuring cups and pails. I’ve done rice sensory bins before and they are always a HUGE hit with this age group. It’s messy (put down a large tarp underneath!), but worth it. Just have a vacuum handy. (Oh, and I colored the rice using these directions.)

Giant foam blocks from Lakeshore Learning. We just bought these and they were a big hit.

Puzzle table (Toddler Explorers program at the Ela Library)

A puzzle table. We put some of our large, chunky puzzles out on a little table with little chairs and I was surprised how many families made use of it!

Baby area (Toddler Explorers at the Ela Library)

A baby area on foam mats, with toys and balls for the babies to play with. These were all things we owned already (we have a big bin of baby toys that we use during playtime after baby storytime).

Toddler area at the Toddler Explorers program at the Ela Library

A toddler toy area with balls and toys. Ditto what I said above about already owning these toys.

A tunnel from Lakeshore Learning. I’ve wanted a tunnel for a while and this was the perfect opportunity to try one out. Silly me, I was worried the kids would be too scared to go through it, but it was heavily used! (We got the 9 foot long, 22 inch diameter tunnel.)

Stay tuned, because we have more awesome ideas up our sleeve for Toddler Explorers this summer. We’re planning to change some of the stations from week to week, although the toy areas and puzzle table will likely be regular features. Stephanie and I have been gathering ideas on a Pinterest board, so check it out if you’re interested in more baby/toddler activities.

8 thoughts on “Toddler Explorers

  1. I love the idea of your toddler explorers program. I have been introducing sensory activities at the end of my toddler storytime and would like to do something like this. Our issue is space! In the meantime, though, I’d like to borrow some of your ideas to use individually. Is that ok?

  2. ABSOLUTELY! I’m so happy you want to use them. Incidentally, I used to do a toddler storytime and did some of these activities after storytime. It worked well–I would bring out some toys, parents would socialize and they could explore the week’s special activity if they wanted. Let me know how it goes!

  3. This is so cool! My library system has an amazing department called Little Read Wagon, and they do something similar called Play and Learns. They’re generally for kiddos five and under – but otherwise the same idea – play based stations to encourage kids and adults to play together. Toddler Explorers is awesome, and seems like a great way to talk to parents slyly about ECCR!

    1. Thanks for your comment. The Play and Learn programs sound fun–although I am a sucker for all play-based learning, especially when it encourages parents to engage with their kids!

  4. I have just found your blog and I am so glad I did! I have just started a similar program to this at our library called “Baby and Me” (ages 0-23 months) and I try to make all the stations things parents can replicate at home on the cheap! You have given me so many more ideas! Thank you! 🙂

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