The Family Place Library at the Brook Park Branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library system in northeast Ohio features a redesigned children’s play area. This space is a large rectangle bordered by the children’s DVD collection on the east wall; board books, concept books, nursery rhymes, parenting materials, and first readers along the windows facing south; and picture books on the north and west sides.
A life-size wooden car, donated by Ford Motor Company, is showcased in the play area. The car gives young people the opportunity to “drive” and “assemble” an engine.
A bright wooden kitchen, complete with its own sink, oven, refrigerator, and assorted dishes and play food, gives children the opportunity for cooperative pretend-play. Other open-ended pretend toys include a grocery store “check-out” station with accompanying grocery items and baskets and a play farm with its mini farmer and animals.
Central to the rectangle play space is an open-ended play rug, populated with land, roads, bridges, and waterways. An adjacent shelving unit houses the play pieces to use on the rug, including wooden blocks, town buildings, and vehicles for land, sea, and air "travel". The colorful rug conveniently serves as a delineation between the baby/toddler and preschool/early elementary play areas.
The baby and toddler area has a dedicated shelving unit that houses a variety of appropriate toys for little ones, including soft blocks, wire bead mazes, musical instruments, and assorted puzzles. A free-standing infant “play yard” completes this space.
Library goers will discover a pair of loveseats on which caregivers and children may snuggle up together and read as well as three small colorful wooden children’s tables with matching chairs. A larger wooden children’s table and chairs is located just beyond the designated rectangular play area at which older children have self-serve access to puzzles, games, coloring, and writing materials appropriate for their age group.
Customers, especially children, seem to enjoy the redesigned space and several parents and caregivers have commented that they make special trips to the Brook Park Branch Library just to come and enjoy the play space! One little boy visited on numerous occasions, specifically to play with the farm and animals. The most popular feature, however, is the grocery store “check-out" station, to which all ages gravitate.
More families have checked out items from the library system’s toy collection, especially after such programming as the Play, Learn and Grow Baby and Toddler Clubs that feature age-appropriate toys. The Brook Park Branch Library will continue to host more of the clubs in cooperation with our new partnerships, as well as provide other programs suited for these populations.
The Family Place Library training was extremely helpful, providing many exciting new ideas and working models that were incorporated into the new design!