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Usually when we go to the library my three-month-old is usually confined to her car seat with Sophie the Giraffe while my kindergartener plays on the iPads or the train table. Not anymore. The Deerfield Public Library recently unveiled the newest addition to the youth services department, the Baby Garden.
The Baby Garden has been in the works for several years, but only came to fruition with donations from the Friends of the Deerfield Library this past spring. The library wanted to create a magical place for babies and their caregivers to explore in a safe and enclosed space. Everything about the Baby Garden is designed with babies in mind, from the bird mobiles hanging overhead (perfect for babies who are not yet sitting to look at), to the enclosed space for active crawlers. Just one visit to there, and my baby and I are smitten with the Baby Garden concept.
I visited the Baby Garden on a sunny Tuesday morning with my five-year-old son and my three-month-old daughter. We had never been to the Deerfield Public Library so we were not sure what to expect. Walking to the Baby Garden we immediately noticed all of the toddler-sized wall activities on the walls and the ends of bookshelves.
In addition to the wall art, in the youth services department, there is also a train table, doll house, puppet theater, books, and even a LEGO table. As a mom of two this is a game changer. My five-year-old planted himself at the train table and was happy to not be just doing “baby stuff,” and I was more than happy to actually be able to explore the Baby Garden while still keeping an eye on him at the same time.
The rules of the Baby Garden are simple. They ask for you to take off your shoes, not to eat in the Baby Garden, and to clean up after yourself. I am still at the point where I am sterilizing everything for my baby and making everyone constantly wash hands (yes, I am THAT mom). I was very happy to see that the guidelines, and I felt comfortable having her play in there.
I opted to put the shoe covers over my shoes instead of taking them off, as I was not wearing socks that day. Some of the other moms present simply took off their shoes and walked around in their socks. The floor inside the garden is made of foam blocks and it the area was clean.
I could see the great amount of detail that the library put into designing the Baby Garden. The play space was completely enclosed by benches — perfect for babies on the move while moms are picking out books in the board book bins located nearby. It is also a great place to have a play date with another mom with young kids. I saw several parents sitting on the edges chatting while their children safely played. Inside the Baby Garden, there are pictures of people on the walls, mirrors at eye-level and flower shaped windows overlooking the garden outside the library. All of these features help babies to develop their little brains.
The Baby Garden also has several toys available for littles ones such as stacking rings, squishy balls, and foam blocks. My three-month-old enjoyed to gripping a bumpy ball, and made all sorts of cute baby noises. Since she is not yet sitting, it would have been nice to have some type of sitting support available to use. My daughter was confined to my lap to play the whole time, so next time I will try to remember to bring a Boppy pillow for her to use while playing.
Be sure to take a quick look around the inside of the Baby Garden. We were surprised to find a teeny LEGO piece that had somehow found its way there from the LEGO table.
If your baby slobbers on a toy, you are encouraged to put it in the “Yuck Bucket” for cleaning. I am not proud to admit that my daughter drooled all over THREE toys there. My five-year-old was very excited to help put them in the yuck bucket and he has even wanted to make a yuck bucket at home for all of her dirty toys.
Overall, I highly recommend the Baby Garden for moms of infants and toddlers. I am sure this library will be on our rotation of free things to do once my daughter becomes more mobile. I hope that this library also becomes an inspiration to other libraries to design more areas for the littlest library patrons.
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