When you visit your Public Library, you’ll notice pockets of play happening throughout the branch. These play opportunities are intentional, and offer life-long play – a concept that supports learning. It does not take long to spot play opportunities at Halifax Public Libraries, you just need to know what to look for.
Connection between play and early literacy
Play is an important part of youth development. Research in early childhood development suggest that child-led learning and active play opportunities are beneficial for young library visitors. Libraries have been well known for their storytimes and puppet shows, but Halifax Public Libraries also offers fun tech programs, craft stations, Lego™, scavenger hunts, puzzles and games, and oversized building blocks for limitless imaginations. These activities support creativity, exploration, and social learning.
The COVID-19 pandemic created inequities in early childhood experiences; children in the 0-5 age range heard fewer words on a daily basis, spent more time alone, and developed shorter attention spans. In response, Halifax Public Libraries has made engaging youth in play opportunities a priority at every location. By offering a mix of play opportunities, Libraries allow children to decide what they are interested in, build independence, and learn from each other, an important skill that was impacted during COVID-19 in infants and school-aged children.
Play Facilitators at the Library
In 2022, Halifax Public Libraries piloted a new role called, Play Facilitators. These positions focus on creating the conditions for play, introducing a variety of play options, and consider the critical question, “what will be fun?”. Fun is foundational to youth engagement, and the most successful programs are daily activities that engage the whole child. For example, scavenger hunts have become very popular because they are physical, exciting, strategic, and offer a sense of accomplishment for young Library visitors. They also animate the Library space through a child’s perspective— hunts are typically focused on lower shelves and corners of the branch overlooked by taller adults.
Supporting lifelong play
When we think of play, we often think of our youngest community members – toddlers and preschool-aged children, but play opportunities should be equally available for all Library visitors. In 2022-23, Halifax Public Libraries introduced new and novel play experiences for all ages that focus on the mind and body.
In 2022, Halifax Public Libraries introduced Stationary Sparks Fly Bikes at most Library locations. The Library co-funded this service with Community Health Teams through a Wellness Grant. Modeled after the Halifax Regional Centre for Excellence School Bike Program, young Library visitors can burn off extra energy, gather their thoughts, and take an adventure without even leaving the Library. The relationship between physical activity and readiness to learn is well established, and just a few minutes on the bike can relieve stress, help manage emotions, and build independence. Take one of these bikes for a spin today.
Equal play for all
Sports and games build life-skills for all ages. In 2022, Sportwheels in Sackville celebrated their 75th anniversary with a Free to Play donation to Sackville Public Library. The collection includes baseball gloves, lacrosse sticks, ball hockey sticks, basketballs, soccer balls, and disc golf equipment, and the community can borrow items for free—all you need is a Library card!
This new collection offers affordable and fun experiences for all ages, and removes barriers to sport and physical play throughout the community. Thank you to our friends at Sportwheels for helping our community stay active and supporting the Public Library.
Play all day
Learning takes many shapes and forms, and creates meaningful experiences for youth through play that expands their curiosity and builds life-skills. When you are looking for fun play options, look no further than your closest Halifax Public Libraries branch.
This story was originally created as part of Halifax Public Libraries' 2022-23 Annual Report. Read the full report here.
Learn more about play features at your Library with Play in Action: Spark Fly Bikes and More.