Want to get kids that you're babysitting out of the house, even on a rainy day? Babysitting at the library can make for a great outing that's as fun as it is educational!
How do you babysit at the library? Use it as a chance to teach kids what the library is and how it works. Make a whole afternoon at the library by planning scavenger hunts, crafts, and other activities around your trip. There are lots of different activities that you can tie back into specific books or stories.
In this article, I'll teach you how to prepare kids for a trip to the library, and give you plenty of cool activities that you can do once you're there.
Why Babysitting At The Library Is A Great Idea
When you imagine the library, you might picture a stuffy old building and a librarian shushing everyone who talks above a whisper. But in reality, most libraries are fantastic places for kids to spend a few hours. They can be as fun as they are educational!
The library can help supplement some extra babysitting materials to keep kids busy if you're lacking them. Surprisingly, nowadays the library isn't just for borrowing books. Although that's one great use of it.
Many libraries will let you borrow DVDs, CDs, or video games. Plus musical instruments, and even free passes to museums and art exhibits in your area! Be sure to check your local library's website or ask at the front desk. Otherwise, you might not know what cool features you could be missing out on!
As a kid, I remember having to use the card catalog at the library to find books. And having to borrow encyclopedias or textbooks from my school's library to finish class assignments. Now with tons of information freely available on the internet, that's mostly a thing of the past. But you can still use an afternoon babysitting as an opportunity for younger kids to learn about the library and everything that it has to offer.
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Prepare Kids For A Trip To The Library
Before you head to the library, there are some basic things you might want to explain to the children that you're babysitting first. That way you'll prevent any misunderstandings when you get there.
Let Them Know What To Expect
Younger kids may have never seen or heard of a library before. Seeing rows and rows of books reaching to the ceiling can be quite a new experience. So it's best to explain what a library is and what you'll be doing there before you go.
Let them know what kinds of people will be there, like the librarian, and other guests looking for books. And explain what kind of activities you'll be doing there, like reading books together or using the computer.
A library might not be the best destination for children that have a harder time behaving. See my article How to Babysit a Difficult Child (4 Steps to Success) if that sounds like a kid that you're babysitting.
Explain How To Treat Library Books
Some kids might be a bit rough with books at home. Especially if they're mostly familiar with baby books that are printed on thick card.
Let them know that they should handle library books gently. We want to keep them in good condition so that everyone can share, and the next child that picks up that book can enjoy it too.
Practice Using Their Inside Voice
Explain to kids you're babysitting that a library is a special place where we need to speak softly and use our inside voices. Practice whispering for a bit before you go. That will make it a bit of a game and they'll be more likely to stick to it once you're actually inside the library.
It's good to explain other special library rules. They don't want to be running around inside the library or they might bump into bookshelves and knock things over. And there aren't any foods or drinks allowed, to prevent making a mess or damaging any books.
Consider These Library Activities
Once you get into the library, you'll want to constantly have something to hold the attention of kids that you're babysitting. Otherwise they may start to get bored and misbehave, which could get you all in trouble with the librarian. Let them know that they can't get too rowdy inside the library, or they might be asked to leave.
Go For The Kids Area
Most libraries have a whole section set aside just for kids. When you first arrive at the library, it's a good place to start. Unless you're planning to give an overall tour of the library first.
In the kids area, you can probably find lots of hands-on activities like lego blocks, puzzles with big pieces for kids, wooden train sets, and other activities. The kids you're babysitting might even find another little friend to quietly play with, which gives you a chance to sit and read your own book for a bit while you watch them play.
Take In A Show
Libraries will sometimes have special events. Like a children's author will come in to read their own books, or there might be a puppet show or ventriloquist. Sometimes a member of the library staff will even dress up like a character from a book and read their story. For example, they might dress up as Little Red Riding Hood and read that story to kids to create an extra sense of immersion.
Check the schedule in advance to see if there's anything exciting going on when you're set to babysit. It might be an awesome reason to take a trip to the library. Plus it can give you a bit of a break too, since the kids will be caught up watching the show.
Create A Book Scavenger Hunt
The library can be a great place to hold a scavenger hunt for kids that you're babysitting. Even better news, you don't even need to create the scavenger hunt before you get there. You can use the library computers to quickly put together a scavenger hunt and print it out on one of the library printers.
If you're using the internet at the library, you should read my article How to Stay Safe Online as a Babysitter (11 Rules to Follow) for some online safety tips.
You can make your scavenger hunt entirely about books for a unique twist on an old game! Scavenger hunts will work better for older kids, since they'll be able to problem-solve and go looking for things themselves. But younger kids can do them too, with some assistance.
Some things you might include in your scavenger hint could be:
- Find a book that has more than 100 pages
- Find a book where the main character is a lion
- Find a book about history
- Find a book by your favorite author
- Find a book written in another language
- Find a book with your favorite food in it
- Find a book with words that rhyme
- Find a book that you've already read before
- Find a book that has been made into a movie
(If you want to make things easier on the library staff, you might want to accompany kids as they do their book scavenger hunt, and put each one back where it belongs once it's found.)
Pick A Theme
Giving your library visit a theme can help pull everything together. Maybe the kid you're babysitting is going through a fad where they're really interested in dinosaurs, tugboats, the rainforest, or some other topic. You can center your library visit around that, and learn as much about their favorite topic as you can! At the end of the day, they can bring home their favorite book on the topic. That way they can keep learning about it, even after you're gone.
You could also pick one historical figure to center your visit around. Like Albert Einstein, George Washington, or Queen Elizabeth II. Then see how much you can all learn about that person in one trip to the library. If it's someone the kids are interested in, it will be fun and educational at the same time!
Practice Writing Skills
Libraries will often have activity sheets that kids can do.
These might be printouts that you can print yourself and work through with kids. Or they might be laminated pages that can be filled out by kids with dry-erase markers and then easily wiped clean again afterward.
The activity sheets can come in a wide variety of different lessons and uses. Some might help kids practice printing letters. Others may help practice fine motor skills with drawing games. There can also be math worksheets for older kids.
Need help babysitting older kids? See my article How to Babysit Older Kids for secret tips and activity ideas.
Plan A Lunch or Snacks Around A Book
While you can't bring food or drinks into the library, you can bring books home with you and plan a meal around them. For example, you might check out Goldilocks and The Three Bears from the library and then make some bowls of porridge or oatmeal for lunch when you get home. Then you can read the book while eating the same foods that are featured in the book.
You can put out a bowl of peaches while kids read James and The Giant Peach, or a bowl of snap peas or green beans while you read Jack and The Beanstalk to them. There are lots of food-related books to choose from!
Squeeze In Some Physical Activity
While you can't run around in the library, there are still things kids can do to get some exercise and practice their motor skills.
A big hardcover book is pretty heavy for a little kid. So you can use the books as weights to build up their little muscles a bit! Pick a book with a weight that's appropriate for their age and size. Then see how many times they can lift it up over their head and put it back down. Or see who can hold a book out to the side with their arm straight the longest.
As you're walking around the library, you can give kids a basket and let them help to carry any books that you pick out together as well.
If librarians are okay with it, you can even create a bit of an obstacle course. Lay out some books, chairs, rulers, and other items and have kids try to crawl around them or hop over them. But it's a good idea to ask permission before using library property like this!
Give A Tour of The Library
For kids that have never been to a library before, a tour is a great way to explain to them what the library is all about, and how it all works.
You can show how the library is divided into different sections, to make it easy for people to find whatever books they are looking for.
Show kids how to look up a book by a particular author or with a specific name, and how to find it on the shelves with the information you get.
Help them to understand the whole library process. Show them how you borrow books. Then show how they go into a bin to be sorted when you return them, and put onto a cart by the librarian to be put back on the shelves where they belong.
Teach kids all about a library card, and what it gives them the ability to do. If their parents are okay with it, you can make it really exciting by helping to sign them up for a library card of their own. Then they can take it home and keep it safe until next time they need to come to the library.
At the end of your tour, you can ask them what their favorite part of the library is and why.
What should you bring with you while you're babysitting? See my article What to Bring Babysitting? (18 Essentials to Pack + Checklist) to find out!
Make DIY Bookmarks
Grab some printer paper and some markers, and pull up some chairs at a table. Kids can make their own bookmarks to go with the books that they're borrowing from the library.
For younger kids, it's probably a good idea to cut the paper into a bookmark shape for them. And then put a larger piece of paper behind their bookmark, so they don't leave any marks on the table by accident.
Play With Flashcards
Libraries can have a wide range of flashcards that you can borrow.
Some of these will be for practicing addition, subtraction, and other math. Others will have basic words like "cat" and "dog" on them to help kids practice their reading comprehension.
You can even make your own library-specific flashcards with words like "book," "chair," "librarian," "dictionary," and more.
Look At Picture Books
Books don't have to just be about reading. There are lots of books with pretty pictures in them to look at.
Not just books made for kids either! There are lots of travel books where you can look at pictures of different locations from around the world together. Or maybe you want to look at recipe books and kids can pick out a meal that looks good to them, and you can make it for their dinner.
Make Your Own Books
Let kids take inspiration from some stories that they've found in the library. Then sit them at a table with some blank paper and let them make their own stories. They can do everything from start to finish, including writing the words and also doing all of the illustrations.
After they're done writing their book, you can put some holes into it with a hole punch for them. Then they can use some yarn or string to bind their book together. That way they can take their book home and show it to their parents too!
Read Stories Together
Your local library will probably have a cozy reading section where you can snuggle up on a couch, chair, or bean bag with the kid you're babysitting and read them a story together. Or you can always take your books home and read to them there instead.
If it's a nice day, you might even choose to take your books to the park and sit under a tree to read them.
You can find my top book recommendations from my article Best Kids Books for Babysitters (Plus Follow-on Activities that Kids Love.)
Make A Never-Ending Story
Help kids to practice their language skills by taking turns telling a story together. One person can say one sentence, and then the next person says the next sentence to keep adding to the story.
See how long you can keep the story going before you reach the end! It will probably start to get pretty silly and stop making much sense after some time. But that's all part of the fun!
Alternatively, you can start reading a real book to the kids you're babysitting. But then stop early and see if they can make their own ending to the story.
The library is a fantastic educational outing to take kids on while you're babysitting.
There are a few special rules that you'll need to teach them before you head to the library. Namely, that they need to use quiet voices and that there's no running inside the library.
But once they know what to expect, there are all kinds of different activities you can do with kids at the library that are both fun and educational at the same time.
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