We love the idea of Baby/Toddler Book Clubs sprouting up all over the country—or all over the world for that matter—and we’d love to feature your Baby/Toddler book club on our blog! Fill out the following form as a request to be featured in a new periodic “Read with Us” series on our blog.
Tips for starting your own baby toddler book club:
1) Keep it consistent-Identify the same group of parents and kids each month and ask for a (reasonable) commitment to participate. Consistency is important for planning purposes, predictability for the children, and helps establish close-knit relationships between members.
2) Make it a manageable size– We’ve ranged from about 7 to 12 parent-child pairs at various points in time, but typically have about 8. That said, even 8 toddlers can feel very busy! Be sure to choose a group size that fits your space and comfort level. We’ve had some really nice intimate meetings with just 3 or 4 parents/children too. It doesn’t have to be a big group to be successful.
3) Chose a group of kids close in age-ideally within a year of each other. This helps with planning snacks and activities that are appropriate to the developmental level of the kids. This is especially important for babies or younger toddlers (a 6 month old is eating very different foods than a 20 month old, for example).
4) Identify one person as the coordinator – I coordinate our group so I plan the activities, schedule the meetings, and send out reminders about what supplies we need for each meeting. I love doing it—so I don’t mind a bit, HOWEVER, don’t let it be overwhelming! If hosting everything doesn’t sound appealing to you, as the coordinator, ask your parent members to take turns hosting and planning a meeting!
5) Pick a consistent day/time to meet each month, but be somewhat flexible– For example, you might identify that you’ll meet the first Tuesday of every month at 10 a.m. and try to stick to that plan, BUT plan that there will be reasons you may need to change the day (e.g., winter weather may not cooperate, the host’s child gets sick, etc.)
6) Know where you can meet each month in advance– My favorite place to host meetings is in my home (I like the comfort of meeting in a home and not having to transport supplies), but we’ve handled hosting many other ways at points in time. Here are places we’ve tried or you could try if hosting in your home isn’t a possibility (be sure reasonably messy activities and/or food are allowed in your space):
* local church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious building with space the public can use/rent for free or at a low cost
* library meeting room
* outside in a backyard or at a park when the weather is comfortable
* rotate hosts (each member hosts one meeting at their home)
Wherever you choose, set up the plan for as many meetings as possible in advance so you aren’t going back and forth about who should/where to host each month.
7) Use our Book List or pick your books ahead of time– Planning books in advance means that there is no rush to find “any book that will do” for the meeting. Also, with advance notice, parents can order the books together to save on shipping, look for used copies, place holds on books at the library, or even work with a library to request multiple copies of the book through interlibrary loan.
8) Choose easy activities and healthy snacks (or use ours!)- I think what makes our group unique is that we find easy activities to coordinate with books and simple healthy food. You are more than welcome to learn from our years of experience! Our Book List page has loads of book club meeting plans organized by year so you have a full curriculum ready for you if you choose! We intentionally select books that represent new publications as well as older classics, cover diverse topics, are age appropriate, and are generally enjoyed by our children.
9) Be prepared for a little (or a lot) of mess –There’s no denying that things can get pretty messy during Baby Toddler Book Club! That’s just part of the process, but here are a few ways we “quarantine” the mess a bit:
*Use a big painters tarp (can purchase on Amazon.com) to protect floors and carpet or as a large outdoor blanket. Throw it in the wash for easy clean-up.
*Put away toys with many small pieces before book club.
* Before reading, cover up the toy shelves with a sheet to help the kids stay focused on the book and activity. Take off the sheets when the activity is done so the kids can play while adults socialize.
* If you meet at a public location, be sure to also have cleaning supplies, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, and wet wipes.
Once you accept the mess, you can relax and enjoy the process (plus, our members always help clean up)!
10) Have fun! Enjoy the time playing with your child and connecting with other parents! Don’t stress if it doesn’t go exactly as you planned or if every child isn’t engaged at every moment (they won’t be—they are babies, toddlers, and young children)!
There are thousands of great ideas on the web and on Pinterest, in particular. We aren’t shy about saying that we use available resources in our planning process. However, the pairing of the book with a particular activity or snack is usually (although not exclusively) our own idea and we always cite all of our sources of inspiration on each blog post.