I’ve been nannying for about eight years now, and though kids & families may change, one very consistent part of my nanny routine is visiting the library. I recently found myself considering what’s still so engaging to me and my nanny kids about the library after literally hundreds of visits. Why are libraries so helpful in supporting young children?
I know nannies who care for infants and waddlers who may feel a little lonely once in a while, spending the majority of their workweek with someone who can’t hold a very long conversation. In fact, that’s one of the only drawbacks of nannying that I’ve experienced: it can feel isolating. One really easy way to add a little adult interaction into your workweek is by bringing your nanny kiddos to story times. You’ll find yourself in a group of parents, nannies, grandparents, aunts & uncles, neighbors, and other caregivers who have similarly-aged children to the kiddos you’re caring for. It’s pretty easy to connect with someone when you start off with that much in common! Just make sure you’re not chatting so much that it’s taking away from the story time. Plus, if you’re the one with the screaming toddler who has to duck out early this week, everyone gets it.
It’s not just for us adults, either. The kiddos get a chance to socialize, too! Sharing books, toys, shakers, and floorspace with other littles is great practice for your nanny kids. For me, storytimes at the library feel like the just-right mix of laid back but also with some general behavior expectations that feel like an excellent precursor for school. Here in Seattle, many libraries also host playgroups for children with all kinds of toys, crafts, and activities.
Most libraries also have dedicated children’s areas that are warm and inviting. Many have coloring pages, comfy couches, and toys & games out and accessible. Why not get cozy and spend time snuggled up reading together? It’s a total dream and good for the kids you care for. Folsom Public Library says,
“Reading aloud to babies boosts their early brain and vocabulary development. It’s one of the best ways to help them learn.”
We can do that!
Okay, I know and I hear it too; it’s pretty unnecessary to recommend the library as a learning resource. Duh! But, do you know all of the educational resources that are offered at your library or in your city? Working in the Seattle area, I’m very lucky because I can find storytimes in different languages, which unfortunately isn’t a skill that I bring to the table, so I’m happy to find that in a different space. My nanny kiddos have loved Spanish story time, even though we aren’t native Spanish speakers. I’ve also seen toddlers & preschoolers learn ASL signs, song lyrics & movements, rhymes & stories, new vocabulary words, and fun facts, all from story times.
Of course all of those books are a big draw, too! My NKs love reading, and I take a little bit of the credit for that because books & reading have always been such a huge part of their life. We read all the time. I have a bin of books in the car that we’re always changing out, thanks to the library. My NKs have huge stacks of library books next to their beds, and they both have their own library cards, too. Books and reading are just ingrained as part of our day.
I let my nanny kiddos pick out the books they’re interested in, but I also keep a list in my phone where I jot down the topics that come up & spark our curiosity so that we can dig deeper.
When they ask me a question I don’t know (cue last year’s “do bees have tongues?” debate), I figure out when we’ll be able to go to the library and research that. Sure, I could just Google it, but that doesn’t come with the memory of going to the library, finding the section with animal books, narrowing it down to the insects, pulling out the bee books, and then finding the answers themselves will! (Spoiler: bees do have tongues.) Kids come up with the best questions about the world around them, and books are the key to finding the answers. Just in the last few months, we’ve dug into why and how ladybugs can walk upside down, everything volcano-related, learned the basics about Ancient Greece, and I even found a truly surprising amount of helpful, appropriate books to teach us all about poop.
There are so many countless ways and reasons that books can help us, as nannies, like when those really hard moments come up, and you’re suddenly trying to figure out how to talk to kids about the death of a pet or a divorce. The library has been a great resource for me when talking to kids about body positivity and back-to-school anxiety, too. What about teaching things you don’t know much about yourself? The six-year-old I care for loves to cook and is obsessed with cookbooks. Unfortunately, I’m not much of a cook at all, but you can believe that we check out cookbooks, read them together, and try new recipes out time and time again! I’m not only modeling how to get better at a skill, but I’m truly learning something valuable along with her. Check out the rainbow tie-dye cupcakes we made last week:
A little tangent here, as a former teacher: let kids pick out the books that are interesting to them. Sure, make suggestions, but give them the autonomy to pick out their own library books (unless they’re egregiously inappropriate). Don’t worry if they’re reading the same book, series, or getting stuck on one topic over and over again (it’s comforting, like rewatching a favorite TV show is for us), and don’t stress about finding books that are the just-right reading level. If they’re interested in a book that’s a little too challenging for them to get through solo, offer to read aloud to them. Otherwise, it takes the fun out of free reading by adding arbitrary guidelines to what they’re reading.
We want to nourish a love of reading, not make it a chore!
If your nanny kiddo doesn’t seem to have a lot of interest in reading, seek out their favorite characters from movies or TV, share some of your favorite books from childhood, or ask the library for recommendations. My library frequently updates their staff picks.
Once you check out those books, model how to take care of them. Using the library is a great way to practice responsibility and how we care for borrowed items. You can use due dates to talk about the calendar, use late fines to teach about money, and of course, use the books themselves to polish those beginning reading skills! Worst case scenario, even when a book does, inevitably, get lost or damaged, there’s a natural consequence and learning opportunity there.
I can’t speak for all libraries, but I am sure grateful that the Seattle Public Library system offers so much. In addition to awesome activities for kids, they also offer free parenting classes. In fact, that’s how I found Sproutable! One free class at the library ended up changing my life! Seattle Public Library system also offers audiobook & movie downloads, online language learning tools, free printing services, and ancestry research. Other cities offer tool libraries, access to 3D printers, musical instrument libraries, job searching support, and various social clubs & groups. I’ve seen libraries that offer tickets and passes to museums, subscriptions to newspapers & magazines, and maybe most importantly: calm, comfortable spaces for people who need to be warm, dry, or somewhere safe for a while. Reach out and ask what your local library system has to offer. Librarians truly seem to love helping & serving their community!
The last, and perhaps best point of all, is that all of the resources I’ve mentioned above are (at least at my library) absolutely FREE! Parents will love hearing that you’ve been at the library with their kiddos, and everyone loves that price!
This is why you’re going to find me and my nanny kiddos at the library, week after week, month after month, year after year. There are too many resources available, people to connect with, and books and stories to share to pass up another visit to your local library. When’s the next time you can plan a library visit with your nanny kiddos?