Even after two and a half years of scouting and blogging, I am still amazed by all the wonderful activities that are available to us FREE of charge through our public libraries. Between all the terrific play areas, drop-in classes and other children’s programs offered at libraries all across the state, you could make these budget-friendly destinations your only outings all year long and you still wouldn’t run out of unique and engaging activities to enjoy.
A few weeks ago, I took my family to the First Saturdays Favorite Story and Craft event at the Russell Library in Middletown, CT. This drop-in program (meaning no registration is necessary; just show up!) is open to anyone and everyone and is held on the first Saturday of every month. The recommended age is 3-5 years, but all ages are welcome, and we certainly saw quite a range on our visit.
You may already be familiar with some of the kid-friendly activities in Middletown, like Kidcity Children’s Museum and Amato’s Toy Store. Well, the Russell Library is located only a few blocks away from both of these venues, so it’s the perfect destination on its own or as an addition to your day’s activities. (In fact, here’s a great little tip: start your morning at the library for playtime or storytime, then check out the library’s KidCity museum pass good for FREE admission for 2 adults and 4 children and head over there next!)
The Russell Library is housed in a beautiful historic building on Broad Street.
There is convenient metered parking right across the street in a public parking lot. The meters even accept credit cards for the 75 cents/hour fee.
Since we had the little guy with us, I used my trusty snap-and-go-style stroller to wheel him in while he was still snoozing in his car seat carrier. It was no problem to cross the street at the well-marked pedestrian crosswalk and wheel him right through the double front doors.
The children’s library is to your right as you enter, just beyond the check-out desk. You’ll see plenty of signage. Once you enter, the children’s activity room will be straight ahead on your right (just follow along the brick wall). There is also a ramp leading up to the main part of the children’s library, so it is very stroller-friendly.
How could you not want to go into a room with a sign like this on the door? I love it.
Of course, we arrived a little early so that I could make sure the librarian wouldn’t mind me jumping around taking pictures of everything for a blog post (she was very supportive 🙂 ), so I was able to get a few shots of the room all set up before the kiddos arrived for the 10:00 AM event.
It already looked like fun! In addition to these tables set up for a craft project, there was a wonderful, light-filled back area of the room just teeming with toys. Boo went right to work with the model train set (of course), but did stop to check out a few puzzles as well as make up his own version of alphabet hopscotch on a colorful rug.
As it got closer to 10:00, more kids started trickling in to play with some of the toys as we waited for the storytime to begin.
The storytime room is right off this play area, so when it was time for some stories and songs, we just headed right in. However, if your child prefers to stay out and play, don’t worry. That’s totally fine. And the really nice thing about the storytime room being right off the play area, is that if you have one child who wants to hear the story and one who wants to play, you can keep an eye on both of them 🙂
Today’s story and craft theme was “socks.” First, we listened to the librarian read a fun story.
Then she paused to let the kids work out some of their wiggles with a song. Can you guess which one?
If you said Itsy Bitsy Spider, you’re right 🙂
Then another cute story. And another familiar song.
The storytime portion lasted about 15-20 minutes, and it was the perfect length for this group of toddlers and preschoolers 🙂
Then it was time for the craft project. What were we making? What else? Socks! As you saw in the pictures above, the tables were well-equipped with individual craft stations featuring a blank sock canvas and plenty of markers and stickers, as well as various doo-dads to affix with every preschooler’s favorite crafting tool: glue. I had to coax Boo away from the train set, but once he got started with the project, he thoroughly enjoyed himself (not to mention his handiwork–look at that face!).
They even encouraged the mommies and daddies to decorate a sock too. And of course I couldn’t resist the allure of pink lizard stickers!
After the craft, there was time for open play with books, cars, trains, blocks, puzzles, pretend play items, even a Play-Doh station.
And there was plenty of open space for the little guy to get out and stretch his legs (yup, we’re mobile now).
Another nice feature of this children’s area (and of course we would be the ones to point this out): there is a little bathroom right there. If you are smirking at this declaration, then it must be because you do not yet have a potty-training preschooler. Just you wait. You will think this is pretty awesome too 🙂
There’s also a sink area to wash up.
If you’re looking for a changing station though, you’ll have to venture out into the main part of the children’s library for that restroom. It’s to the right of the children’s reference desk, on the same wall with all the computers. Don’t worry, it’s a family restroom so there’s plenty of room to fit both your baby’s stroller and your preschooler in there with you.
The main part of the children’s library is filled with wonderful sections to browse.
Unfortunately, water damage has temporarily closed another area that will be very important to moms with young children: the parent room. This enclosed space, located towards the back of the children’s library, is a perfect place to go if you need to find a quiet spot to sit or read with your child (where they can’t get out!) or if you want privacy while nursing or feeding your baby a bottle. Right now the area looks like this (notice the door barricaded by that low bookshelf), but that’s only because everything has been moved around to prevent the water from causing further damage. Hopefully in a few weeks it will be restored to its full functionality (and I’ll be able to go back and get some new pictures!).
We had such a lovely time hanging out, chatting with other parents, letting Boo make some new friends, that we hardly realized it when nearly two hours had passed! So much for my plan to head over to Amato’s Toy Store afterwards and pick up a few birthday presents for Boo’s friends. Oh well.
But with a couple of snoozing kiddos in the backseat, there was plenty of time to stop off at our new favorite sandwich shop, Nardelli’s, just around the corner and grab two grinders to go. Yummm.
Main Ph. (860) 347-2528
Children’s Dept. Ph. (860) 344-8479
Children’s Dept. E. firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Monday-Thursday: 9 AM – 8:30 PM
- Friday: 9 AM – 6 PM
- Saturday: 9 AM – 5 PM: September 7, 2013 – June 14, 2014
- Sunday: 1 PM – 4 PM: September 8, 2013 – April 13, 2014
Please check the library’s website for the most up-to-date hours and special holiday hours and closings.
- 1st Saturday Favorite Story and Craft Time (recommended for ages 3-5 but all ages are welcome): First Saturday of each month @ 10:00 AM.
- Twlighlight Tales story, craft, and play time (recommended for ages 3-5 but all ages are welcome): Every Tuesday from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM.
- Baby Rhyme Time (ages birth to 12 months): Wednesdays from 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
*ALL DROP IN PROGRAMS REQUIRE A CAREGIVER TO PARTICIPATE WITH THEIR CHILD. No drop-offs.
Visit the library’s website for information about these and other children’s programs.
View the children’s event calendar here.
- Library/Storytime FREE!
- Metered parking 75 cents per hour Monday-Saturday
- Stroller Friendly: YES. There are ramps and plenty of space to navigate with a stroller.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES. Signage indicates no food or drinks, but generally it’s okay to have a beverage in a covered container that won’t spill easily (like a travel coffee mug). They know how much we mommies looooove our coffee! If you need to give your little ones something to eat or drink, try to do that only in the children’s activity room though.
- Baby Changing Station: YES. Restroom located in the children’s section to the right of the reference desk (near the computers).
- Parking: Metered public parking (in a parking lot) is available right across the street from the library. The cost is 75 cents per hour with a 3-hour limit (Monday-Saturday).
- Food for Sale: NO
- Outside Food Allowed: Generally NO, but if you absolutely need to bring some snacks for your little ones, you can let them eat in the children’s activity room.
- Cash Required: NO. The parking meters accept both cash and credit cards.
- Dress Code: Nothing special, although remember that there will be a craft project that might involve things like markers and glue.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES. The Russell Library is open weekday evenings as well as Saturdays & Sundays with drop-in programs on the first Saturday of the month and every Tuesday evening. See library hours for details.
Tips & Things to Bring
- Drop in storytimes usually include a few stories, songs/games, a craft project and then plenty of time for free play in the children’s activity room.
- Although the librarians lead structured activities during storytime, it’s okay if your child prefers to continue with free play. They’ll understand 🙂
- You can let your child play in the children’s activity room any time during normal business hours that there is NOT a scheduled program going on. If the door is open, that pretty much means you can go in 🙂
- If you are planning to come to play, it might be worth a quick call before you head over just to make sure there isn’t a program going on in the children’s room. (Or even better, maybe there will be a drop-in program you can join!) Call (860) 344-8479 to check.
- When repairs are completed, the parent room is a great place for nursing mothers to find a private space or just an enclosed area for quiet time with your child.
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