When I started at my library just over a year ago, we didn’t have any program specifically for our littlest patrons. It was something that the library had thought about doing, but just never got around to. I decided to change all that by adding Babygarten to our programming repertoire. I chose Babygarten for two main reasons:
- My library had the Babygarten binder and materials.
- I had participated in Babygarten programs during my time as a library volunteer in grad school, so I was already familiar with the program.
During Babygarten, the mothers and I sit in a circle around the storytime carpet. I hand out laminated sheets containing seasonal rhymes, and we spend the first twenty minutes or so of the program singing these rhymes twice. I sneak in some early literacy tips here and there and, halfway through the rhymes, we pause for a shared, baby-appropriate story.
Once the rhyming portion is done, I collect the laminated sheets, turn on some music and break out the toys for the babies. While the babies play, the mothers make a simple craft and socialize with one another.
Unlike preschool storytime, which we have every week throughout the year, Babygarten runs for six weeks during the fall, six weeks in the winter and six weeks in the spring. I would love to have a Babygarten program during the summer as well, but we’re too busy. Hopefully someday though…
I’ve found that Babygarten is a very laid back and intimate program. Most of the mothers who attend Babygarten show up every week, and we usually get one to two new people every week as well.
Some pros about the Babygarten program include:
- Limited planning needed. The Babygarten binder comes equipped with weekly crafts, seasonal rhymes, and even some early literacy tips to share.
- The craft portion gives mothers who might not feel creative the confidence to make crafts with their children.
- The free play period allows mothers (and myself!) to really get to know one another.
- Prep work. I may not need to do much planning, but preparing the craft beforehand, making sure that I have all craft supplies, and preparing the room (moving furniture, cleaning the storytime carpet, etc.) takes up a good part of my Thursday mornings.
- Not all of the crafts work (in my opinion). Some of the suggested crafts involve small parts that babies can choke on, while other crafts just aren’t very interesting. So I’ve found myself adjusting crafts (getting rid of the small bits) or thinking of new crafts. And, let me tell you, finding baby-appropriate crafts can be tricky.
- Since the rhymes are seasonal and stay the same for the six week programs, by the end of the six weeks, we’re all a little tired of the rhymes. (Though it’s great for the babies! I can’t tell you how many have learned the movements we do during the rhymes. It’s always very encouraging!)
Babygarten has become very popular at our library, and I am so glad that we offer it. Despite a few hiccups in the program, it’s very easy to present. Some day I might try to develop my own baby storytimes, but for right now I’m very happy with Babygarten.