Libraries are no longer just big, cavernous spaces with floor-to-ceiling books. They are now filling in education gaps and serving as centers for early literacy training by providing enrichment in fun new ways. They provide parents and children with a place to try out new technology or just fuel their imagination in creative playspaces. As we head into the colder months consider checking out these three Lake County branches, or your own local library, as an alternative to a mall or restaurant play place.
801 N. Main Street | 847-526-6225
This is my favorite library that we have visited since moving to Lake County. The number one feature, in my opinion, is that the children’s library occupies the entire lower floor. You don’t have to worry about children being too loud or disruptive to adult patrons working nearby or your child running off and getting lost in tall stacks. It’s totally contained with only one way in and out.
The children’s department fuels the imagination of kids in multiple ways. My girls immediately raced to the grocery store and dress up area stocked with a conveyor belt and carts. My youngest loved the airplane and flipping all the switches, as well as racing his car down the ramps. My oldest spend a great deal of time playing with the giant light peg board. There is a creativity area for hands-on crafting as well as a light table, Lego table and wall, and soft-sided area for crawlers.
There are iPads and computers for children to play games on, as well as a large screen and seating area for playing video games. This area truly had enough for all of my children to be entertained for an entire morning.
505 N. Northwest Highway | 847-382-1300
This library has stunning architecture that wowed us right as we walked in. It’s open and bright floor plan will have you instinctively grabbing little hands and sushing your preschoolers, but don’t worry. I knew we would be just fine when I could hear the children’s department before seeing it!
The children’s area is centered around a large open space that is filled with the large blue building pieces of Imagination Playground. Kids can build large structures and ball ramps. My oldest worked with several other older children to build a large ball run. It was not only a great lesson in engineering but also in teamwork and compromise.
This library had so much to do that my kids didn’t even see the entire grocery and imagination area. They were too busy with the blocks and the light boards. My youngest two were kept entertained in the house and on the slide. There are also lots of interactive and skill building wheels, levers and flips. There is, of course, lots of technology available but I appreciated that it was set back from the hands-on activities. I have one child who is drawn to iPads like a magnet and she didn’t even notice them until we were there for over an hour, which is a win in my book! There is also plenty of seating around the center children’s area. From cafe-style booths to comfy chairs, you could actually probably even read your own book while the children play!
128 N. County St. | 847-623-2041
The Early Learning Center at the Waukegan Public Library changes themes early. We have not been able to make it to this year’s build out, Once Upon a Fairy Tale, but have been in previous years and are always impressed!
This year’s fairytale design welcomes children to step into their favorite stories. They cross over a drawbridge to enter. Unicorns sit on the shelves and knights’ armor hangs on the walls. The Jack and the Beanstalk theater encourages children to dress up and act out their favorite stories. There are climbing walls, building areas and a pixie hollow for crawlers to play in. Storytimes are offered almost daily and there is always a craft and coloring supplies out for children to create with.
Do you visit libraries outside of your own neighborhoods? Which are your favorites?
Barrington Area Library