talk about it more

a virtual baby book

When she was two, Fiona regularly said "Talk about it more!" to express her desire to know more about whatever we were discussing.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Volunteering: start 'em young

If play is a child's work, then Fiona and Nora worked really hard with me today at our library's Early Learning Center. We are a volunteer play team in the 2,000 square foot ELC, which is packed with hands-on activities devoted to early literacy and pre-numeracy skills.

Nora stacked large foam blocks and crawled on a baby maze. We put puzzles together; or, in Nora's case, banged puzzle pieces together. We talked about letters and colors while sticking our names up onto the magnetic alphabet wall. We bought plastic veggies from greengrocer Fiona in the dramatic play area, then put on bee wings and pretend to gather pollen and build honeycomb for the queen bee. We wrote secret messages with markers at the writing center, then put them into the big, official-looking mailbox. Then we built a track for a Brio train and tested it with animals and female figures onboard. "No boys on the train, Mom. They don't fit into the cars. Look how far apart their legs are when they stand!" And that's just the stuff we had time to play with so far.

The room doesn't have any electronic technology in it. No screens-- not even any library catalogs. No buttons, no video screens, nothing. Imaginations are the fuel for play in the Early Learning Center. So how, you may ask, did we land plum jobs volunteering in this unplugged kiddie wonderland? Parents and caregivers are so busy these days, it seems, that just getting kids to the good stuff seems to be all some of them can do. Getting out of the chair, setting aside the magazine, and playing with a child is not happening enough of the time. Now I'm not implying that every parent or caregiver doesn't need a tiny smidgen of time to be able to rest the mind and body from time to time, or that the ELC wouldn't be a safe, enclosed place to do so, but children who are not well attended... well... one way or another that becomes an issue for any public space.

Enter play volunteers! We model how adults can enjoy playing interactively at the library with one or more children in patient, developmentally appropriate ways. The library even has little rings of brain-boosting game suggestions for parents to try in the area. Rain or shine, most days of the year, this room is free and available for me and my favorite young learners! Yessssssss! We're happy to oblige by volunteering to play together.


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