playSeveral weeks ago the Joplin Public Library opened its expanded and redesigned play space area in the Children’s Department. To the casual observer this transformation seemed to take a mere week to pull off, but for those staff members working behind the scenes, the process took much longer.

It began in November 2013, when the library director and I attended training in New York. The training was hosted by Middle Country Public Library system, the founding member of the Family Place Libraries network—a network that includes more than 300 public libraries across the nation. The mission of Family Place Libraries is to increase the role of the public library as a community hub for healthy child and family development, parent and community involvement, and lifelong learning beginning at birth.

After we attended the training, it was clear to both the library director and me that we wanted to be a part of the Family Place Libraries initiative. We started planning how to incorporate the key components of all Family Place Libraries—a specially designed welcoming space; a resource collection for parents; developmentally appropriate programming for parents and children, including a parent-child workshop; and outreach efforts to reach non-traditional library users—into daily Joplin Public Library operations.

On Sept. 12, after a lot of hard work by many people, we opened the newly created play space, with the hope that not only would it start us on our way to Family Place inclusion, but that it would be a wonderfully welcoming space for families to learn, grow, play and have fun.

And that is similar to what Roni Cohen Leiderman and Wendy S. Masithe, the authors of “Let’s Play and Learn Together,” hope to give to readers with their book. Not a space for play, but ideas for play—a repertoire of 375 activities, songs and games that families with younger children can enjoy doing together.

According to the authors, “Play is much more than just fun and games. It is vital for cognitive, social and emotional development because it helps children develop their dexterity, imaginations, and communication skills while promoting friendships, empathy, and conflict resolution.” In short, play is one of the key things a parent/caregiver can do to ensure their child’s future success.

The pair have structured their book to include two main sections—“Play Ideas for Learning and Love” and “Play Activities and Ideas for Making Life with Your Child Fun and Hassle Free.” And each chapter is subdivided to focus on infants, toddlers and preschoolers, so it is easy to see at a glance what activities are developmentally appropriate.

This is a fun guide that not only provides creativity play solutions, it provides them without the use of bells and whistles. All one needs is a sock to make a puppet, chalk for hopscotch and a few spare cardboard boxes to create a train. The authors provide so many great ideas that almost any parent can do and it is hard to decide which to try first. Personally, after reading only the first chapter of this book, I had at least three ideas that I knew I just had to try with my family. I recommend this title for anyone who has the opportunity to interact and play with children.

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