Toddlers & the Library

Bring your toddler to any branch of the Mercer County Library System to have a fun experience while learning, socializing and reading books!

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We encourage you to make the most of our resources and children’s services with your toddler. Using the library is a terrific way to spark your toddler’s interest in books and reading. Besides books, resources to help engage your toddler in reading include story-time sessions, knowledgeable librarians, reading lists by age and topic categories, multimedia materials and colorful reading areas designated for young children. In addition, watching other children read and choose books helps reinforce a positive attitude toward books in your child. Going to the library can also serve as a great opportunity to bond with your toddler. Reading books together helps build closeness with caregivers, provides children with an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned, and gives them access to new information.
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Here are some tips and guidelines for planning first library visits with a toddler.

Visit often and incorporate the library into your regular routine, such as going to the playground or other community places included in your weekly travels. Make the library a family priority, to stress that reading is important. Talk about the library with your child to build up the experience. Your toddler will be excited to learn that the library is full of books she will be able to borrow and bring home. As you read at home, talk about what books you might want to find on your next visit. Check the back covers of the books you are reading at home to see what else the author has written. Or talk about topics of interest to explore on the next visit (dinosaurs, nature, cars, seasons, trucks & diggers, stars & space, sharing, robots, princesses, trains, opposites, colors, shapes, the alphabet, numbers & counting, animals, dragons, family, emotions, magic, friendship, pets, night-time, new siblings, manners, insects & spiders, monsters). Take a look from home at the library’s online catalog to see what your branch has available.
Keyword Toddlers
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Program Schedules

Find out what programs and services the library offers. View our event calendars for the times and locations of story-times. For families seeking bargains in entertainment and educational enrichment, the library is a wonderful value. Everything is free! Each branch creates printed calendars you can pick up in person or, to find our online calendar listings, go to, click on the PROGRAMS tab at the top of the page, then click on YOUTH SPECIAL EVENTS or STORY-TIMES. (Some programs may require online or telephone registration with a valid MCLS library card.) Some story-times for toddlers will include music or crafts, which give children a chance to express themselves and bring home their artwork, reinforces their library visit and gives a sense of accomplishment. Songs, rhymes, stories and movement activities are selected to promote verbal acquisition and sensory development. Even if there are not any scheduled events going on, the library may have toys, puzzles, a dedicated play session or coloring sheets for children. There is free meeting space available in the library too. Numerous parenting and support groups meet on a regular basis.
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Prepare and practice

On initial visits, allow your toddler to explore the children’s area to become comfortable, even to sit and play quietly. It is a good idea to set a few expectations for behaviors such as “We walk in the library--we listen to mommy--we talk in quiet voices.” As you reinforce this, children will understand that the library is there for the whole community and that they need to be considerate of others’ needs. While these expectations are the ultimate goal, understand that the children’s section of the library may be full of children and may not be quiet at all during your visit--everyone is in training and newly learning and practicing these behavioral skills. Toddlers and the library do mix—rest assured that your toddlers will not be the loudest that library staff or patrons have ever heard, even during an unavoidable tantrum or meltdown!

It is important to teach even young children about taking care of themselves in public places, including learning how to deal with new faces, strangers and recognizing when a situation might be dangerous.

National Crime Prevention Council

Family Education

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We can help

hooplaOur specialty as youth services librarians is in helping children and caregivers find books by topic and by age level. We select the books for purchase and we love to read them ourselves. Ask us for help and get to know us. We want to bring our resources and children together and help you to make the most of our collections. We can give you pointers on catalog searching, place holds for you, and tell you what we enjoy reading. We can help you navigate our electronic resources such as eLibraryNJ, hoopla and other sources you might be able to download, stream or take advantage of on your personal devices. We can assist in finding answers to questions and we welcome suggestions, too. If you have concerns about which story-time or program is right for your child we can give advice; we plan and present those programs. And we can let you know of our upcoming seasonal program plans, such as our extensive summer reading program.

Selecting books

For tips on selecting toddler books here are a few links:

PBS Parents
PBS Parents

Stay at Home Educator

Head Start

Give your child some freedom to select a few of their own books. For toddlers, help them find the right section but let them choose what may interest them. The best books for this age contain a simple, predictable plot, rhymes, songs and poetry, sounds and noises as part of the story, appealing illustrations, subjects from toddler's real world, and words and phrases that repeat.
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Check out children’s books to take home. Be a role model and show your child how much you enjoy the library by also choosing books for yourself to read at home. Small children can be taught basic book care and to understand the idea that library books are everybody’s property and should be treated carefully. Library books have features that books from your home library do not, such as plastic covers. Remind children these covers are not to be taken off of the books. At home, be gentle with pages, keep books off of the floor and dedicate a special storage area for them away from food, crayons and other craft materials.

Branch Locations in Member Municipalities

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We encourage you to visit different branch locations if it suits you. Every library branch has its own personality, size, budget, program schedule, community history, staff and unique physical space. All branches are open four evenings until 9pm and on Saturdays until 5pm. Several of them are open on Sundays and selected holidays. Funding for children’s programming is provided locally by a Friends of the Library group or Township Advisory Committee. You can borrow free museum passes from several branch locations. All branches strive toward fulfilling Mercer County Library System’s mission by being appealing to all ages and providing open access to a variety of programs and materials in a welcoming, creative environment.

Avoiding Conflict

After a few visits you will establish a routine as you develop a familiarity with the library’s programming schedule, story-time components, picture book collections, check-out procedure, and shelving layout. Set limits or decide to make compromises ahead of time if necessary to avoid conflict, based on the personal goals of your family’s library visit. (Do you want computers and screen time to be a part of your visit, or is it something you wish to avoid? How many books can be checked out? Are DVDs allowed to be borrowed? How long will you stay? Will toys, puzzles or a program be a part of the visit?) It is all right to skip story time. If groups of other children overwhelm your toddler, it might be easier to visit at a quieter time. Or consider going to story time, and leaving when the stories are over—come back later to get books, play, cuddle, and read. Try story-time on different days of the week. If you will not be using computers while at the library, but do so at home, here are recommended websites by the American Library Association:
Great Websites for Kids
Great Websites for Kids

Sites for Parents, Caregivers, Teachers & Others

Supporting and using your public library as a source for lifelong learning is an important step in your being a reading role model for your toddler. We hope you will visit soon and begin creating positive memories of libraries, books and reading.

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Laura Gruninger, Lawrence Headquarters


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