Have you visited any of the new WonderKnook play spaces, located at each of KDL's 20 branches? The Eding family visited all of them! Mom Jana shares their experience.
How did you hear about the new WonderKnook play spaces?
My three-year-old sons Joel and Ezra enjoy storytime at the Wyoming Branch (Mr. Ty is wonderful!). We were able to see the transformation of the play space at that branch and saw the signs about the different themes in each library. My boys love maps of all sorts, so one day I grabbed one of the WonderKnook maps just to show them another example of a map, and as I explained what each symbol stood for it became clear that they were interested in checking out some of the other branches.
What inspired you to visit the WonderKnooks at all twenty KDL locations?
As a stay-at-home mom, I’m always looking for free activities that get us out of the house and keep my boys engaged. Wednesday has become our library day, and we decided to check out some of the other branches during winter and then in May when storytime was on hiatus for school groups and planning. My boys loved looking at the map and picking which branch they wanted to check out next, and once we had visited a handful, I realized we definitely needed to set a goal of seeing them all.
In your opinion, which branch had the most unique play space? How so?
East Grand Rapids definitely stands out in my memory, as the space is just so large and had several different activities that kept my boys actively engaged for quite some time. Byron Township was unique in that as far as I can recall, it is the only play area completely separated from the rest of the branch by a door, which made it easier to make sure my kids hadn’t wandered off and made me feel less anxious about bothering other patrons if they got too boisterous. The theme at the Walker Branch really engaged my boys - they loved pretending to take care of the various stuffed pets available.
Why do you think play is so important for young minds?
As a former elementary educator, I can’t help but quote Jean Piaget: “Play is the work of childhood.” Children learn so much through exploring the world around them, and it has been so wonderful observing my own boys learn and grow. I have loved watching them become more imaginative in their play as they integrate elements of stories they have heard or playact situations from real life, and I especially love the way they learn from each other and grow in communication skills through their attempts at cooperative play.
What advice would you give to other parents who want to follow in your footsteps?
Engage your kids using the map - let them pick which ones they’d like to visit first! My boys also loved asking librarians for the sticker to mark off each branch on the map, and I loved watching them practice those types of social interactions. I recommend packing a lunch, as most branches have a wonderful park nearby. We loved exploring new playgrounds in parts of town that we otherwise would not have had reason to go to. Save the farther branches for the days where you really need to just get out and pass a large chunk of your day. The branches closest to your house are perfect for days when everyone is moving at a snail’s pace and you have less time to work with.