5 Tips for Taking Toddlers and Preschoolers to the Library…Without Leaving in Tears

The library- it sounds like a great place to take your toddler or preschooler. All the other Moms do it right?

But, it turns out, the library can be a stressful place when you have little children, especially with more than one!

I don’t know about you, but my toddler is anything but quiet. And all those shelves of books? They invite pulling every single book out before running to the next shelf. He can empty the shelves about five times faster than I can re-shelve the books he’s already hit!

And my preschooler? She disappears around shelves of books quick as a blink, leaving my heart pounding as I race to see which way she went. She too can yank books off shelves in a blink- except she thinks every book she touches must come home with us!

After years of dreading library day, (and the fines to prove it) I have several tips that make library day not only bearable, but also productive and fun! Here are 5 tips for taking toddlers and preschoolers to the library…without leaving in tears. And you know I mean Momma tears too!

These tips make our library days so much better! Plus, I’ve managed to keep our fines under $2 for the past 6 months!

1. Put Books on Hold5 tips for taking toddlers and preschoolers to the library...without leaving in tears. And you know I mean Momma tears too!

How often do you get to the library, lug home a bunch of books only to find that you don’t enjoy reading a single one of them to your child? Looking for quality books, while also supervising a young child (or several) is near impossible. My little one wants to take home every book she touches- and she can grab at least 6 per minute! I can’t possibly look through them all before she places them in our library cart. Even when I do, I hate saying over and over again, “No not this one, lets pick another.”

I finally found the easiest solution! Place quality children’s literature on hold using the library’s online catalog. Almost every library has a catalog on its website and the ability to place books on hold from the comfort (and quiet!) of your own home!

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Amazon has great lists for ages 0-2 and 3-5. I love the ability to ‘look inside’ each book and read reviews before placing it on hold at the library.

Then, when I get to the library I know I’ll go home with several quality books I will love reading to my child.

2. Take a Rolling Crate

5 tips for taking toddlers and preschoolers to the library...without leaving in tears. And you know I mean Momma tears too!How difficult is it to lug a heavy bag of books through the library while also wrangling a child (or several)? I know the minute I’m loaded down with a bursting bag of books, and arms full too, is just when the toddler will decide to throw a massive fit. With a rolling library crate I always have a hand free to hang on to a child. Plus, my little ones love to take turns pulling the cart, which keeps them occupied and on task. It also keeps the books in a central location at home so I don’t end up losing them all over the house during the week. (Trust me- buy the legal size, not the letter size for plenty of room for large picture books.)

3. Set a limit

Before arriving at the library tell you child how many books she can choose to take home. 3, 5, or 10? Choose a number that works for you, but stick to it. With a nice stack of quality books from your holds, there will be plenty of books to read when you get home.  So if your child chooses books you don’t care for, at least there are only 3 (or 5) you won’t enjoy reading aloud!

4. Utilize Story Time

If your library offers story time, put in on your calendar! I arrive 15 minutes before story time so my preschooler can pick her books, before joining in story time. Then I have 20 minutes to look through her choices while she enjoys story time, that way no book that I have an issue with ends up in our house.

Also, story time makes our library trip seem more worthwhile. I know my preschooler can fill our book box in about 15 minutes. Especially during winter, it seems a lot of work for a tiny bit of time at the library by the time we’ve eaten a snack, gone potty, gotten shoes and appropriate winter gear on, buckled in the car, driven to the library, etc. Story time is fun and educational…and allows us to stay at the library for at least 45 minutes instead of 15.

5. Use Your Smartphone

Too often I forget to return or renew my library books. Now as we checkout our books I put a reminder on my smartphone for the day before my books are due, and I put the due date on my calendar too. My library allows me to renew online up to the day before my books are due, so when I hear that reminder I know to go to my library’s app to renew our books if we can’t get to the library in the next 24 hours. No more late fees!

Check to see if your library has an app, which makes renewing books from your phone so easy! Otherwise bookmark the library page on your browser for quick and easy renewing, for those weeks you just can’t make it out of the house.

Bonus Tip- Ask the Librarian

If you need help choosing books, ask the librarian for suggestions. It will probably make her day! She spends her days among those books- and loves them too. Your little girl loves kittens? She can probably point you to five books in five minutes that your child will love!

Now, try out these tips and see if your library trips aren’t so much better!

If I look away she can’t see me and she won’t take me down. #busyboy #jonclimbs #library

A photo posted by Amanda (@bigfamilyblessings) on

Do you have any tips to add to my list for library trips with toddlers and preschoolers? I’d love to hear them!

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20 Comments

  1. These are fabulous tips. I wish I’d thought of the rolling cart back when my kiddo was small! Definitely agree with you that using the library catalog ahead of time makes everything go much more smoothly. Our library system emails me due date reminders, luckily, or our fines would be through the roof.

  2. For weeks I have wanted to take my 2.5 year-old to the library, but haven’t for fear of when we’d have to leave… LOL! He LOVES to read. I like your tip about the story time date. We’ll be adding that to our social calendar for our local library. Thanks so much for this post.

  3. I love these tips!! Going to the library is one of my favorite things… conceptually. The reality of chasing my 2 year old and helping my indecisive 5 year old find suitable books is enough to make me want to cry sometimes. But we went today and utilized the Hold system. And by golly, that is the BEST service for people with young kids. My little ones also picked one extra book each, we played with our library’s train table, and then we headed home. It actually worked! No tears (from me or the kids)! I am SO going to have to try that rolling crate tip next. Love it. (Stopping by from #typeaparent )

  4. I have been terrified about taking my almost 2 year old to the library. These are great tips. I would honestly never have thought to look at an online catalogue before going there. And the story time trick is right up my alley. Thank you!

  5. I would add, “have a place to keep library books at home.” We have a basket in the living room for all library books that are not currently being read, so everyone knows where they belong. It has helped us cut down on fines.

  6. Very practical post indeed!!! I am SOOO glad I am not the only one whose children enjoy pulling books off shelves and running through the shelves! Lol I have also found we do much better if we have a plan, like if we at least already know what topics we are looking for.

  7. These are some great suggestions, especially the book limit! I was an avid library goer before I had kids, but after a few trips with them, I gave up and started going alone after my husband got home from work…lol. These might make the library fun again!

    Thanks for linking up with Family Fun Friday!

  8. I liked that you talked about picking out books beforehand so a kid could be ready to read when they get to school or you are together. I think that would really help in the development of the child and allow them to become more proficient in reading. I would like to develop that bond as our 6 month old grows up and trust her to a great preschool in the future as well!

  9. I appreciate how you said that a preschool should have time to read books to the students. I also like how you said that they should be able to have fun there. My husband and I are looking for a preschool for our daughter that she will like.

  10. I have never been to the library with my toddler as I’m fear of mischievous things that she does on the shelves of the library. Your tips will work like a wonder to all mommies like me who wanted to carry their toddler to the library and to give them the independence to choose books.

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