The Importance of Play: SNAILS Meeting, November, 2014

The quarterly meeting at Batavia Public Library had two guest speakers.

The National Lekotek Center gave a brief presentation about their services and the benefit of ‘play’ to children of all needs, especially those with special needs. What an impressive organization with highly regarded research.  They offer three types of services to parents and children primarily between the ages of 3- 8 years old. Services include 12 1-house Individual Play Sessions, Access to the Toy lending Library, Social Playgroups and more. For more information, visit http://www.lekotek.org/index.php.  With an annual membership, benefits to a library partnership include access to the Professional Toy Lending Library for patron or library use and Professional Development opportunities such as webinars. A family membership is $300 regardless of the number of people in the family.

The second presenter was a PHD student from Australia. She spoke briefly about her research with play and will be posting a video to her blog.

The main topic of the presentation was the importance of Play, which I really value in my programs. The phrase, “You can do it and here is how you do it,” is one I will take with me regardless of a child’s ability.  Often, we are given information or ideas, but never any resources about what to do next.  The strength of this Lekotek philosophy is one of empowerment for parents and kids.

Children of all abilities are over-worked, over-scheduled and over-evaluated.  Without free and unrestricted playtime, their stress level can skyrocket, causing them to have problems in school, which then leads to ‘extra’ work to help supplement the skills they lack, making even more work, schedules and evaluations they don’t need or want.  The creativity I see in kids of all ages when they have just an hour of free time to either create an art project, play a board game, or just explore simply amazes me every time.  Their imagination and their ability to think freely and without limits inspires my imagination to help create interesting library programs and connect with kids.

Some tidbits I took away from this session included the website AblePlay.org and the Toys R Us Differently Abled Toy Guide which offers reviews and ideas for toys. What great resources for parents and librarians.  I find that giving families reputable information is important because it’s at the core of what it means to being a librarian.  Anyone can google to try and find fun and new toys, yet, with these resources, a parent can truly be educated and take into consideration the needs of their child.  As a librarian, being able to tell a parent, here is this great toy your son or daughter can play with, and here is why it’s great, is essential information to share.

I also learned at this meeting the importance of adaptive toys and how they can help children with disabilities play and enjoy being a child, just for the sake of fun!

Ideas I really thought were great included Sensory Packs; additional special collection designation, and a bibliography to make books for special needs families easier to find. Of course, it was also a good opportunity to speak to other librarians about their programs and outreach efforts to the special needs community.

I always meet great librarians and always leave these meeting inspired.  This one did not disappoint.

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