Stay & Play Toolkit

A circle of parents and children clap their hands together.

What is Stay & Play

Stay & Play is a library service model specifically designed to serve and support the needs of informal child care providers, often referred to as Family, Friend, and Neighbor or FFNs. Stay & Play is designed to be offered over time and includes weekly in-person gatherings as well as targeted online resources. Learn how to implement Stay & Play.

Why Stay & Play

In California, roughly 80% of young children under two and 40% of children under five are cared for by informal child care providers. These family, friends, and neighbors often lack access to the information, resources, and support available to formal, licensed child care providers.1 Nonetheless, they provide many hours of care each week and have a profound impact on the lives of the children in their care. Libraries are uniquely positioned to responsively support this important population of informal child care providers with information, resources, and community connections. 1 The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, 2015. Informal Child Care in California: Current Arrangements and Future Needs. Kids play together amidst a cloud of bubbles.

Purpose of this Toolkit

This toolkit highlights the best practices and lessons learned from five public libraries in California that piloted Stay & Play. Five sections contain concrete steps, resources, and examples to assist other libraries in engaging and supporting the family, friend, and neighbor caregivers in their own communities.


In 2016, the Oakland Public Library received a Packard Foundation grant to create programming specifically designed for family, friend and neighbor child care providers. The resulting Oakland Play Café then led to the subsequent pilot grant which tested this service model in other, diverse library settings throughout California. “Stay & Play” was the name given to the piloted service model that resulted. Stay & Play builds on the early learning foundations and best practices promoted, for more than a decade, by the California State Library’s Early Learning with Families (ELF) initiative — a statewide initiative that supports the continued evolution of library services to young children, their families and caregivers. Kids and their parents sit in a play area set up inside a library. In the background are tables with activities.

The Five Components of Stay & Play

Stay & Play is both a weekly in-person program series as well as targeted FFN resource. Five core components inform all aspects of Stay & Play. These five components are listed below and further explained in Implementing Stay & Play.
  • Outreach: Targeted and focused outreach to family, friend, and neighbor child care providers
  • Play: Meaningful play opportunities that are child-directed and encourage caregiver and child interactions
  • Story Time: Library story times specifically designed for informal child care providers and the children in their care
  • Resources: Programming, resource materials, and/or community experts to better equip informal child care providers with child development, safety, and early learning information
  • Food: Provision of food or opportunities to accommodate the food needs of children and their caregivers
A young child dresses up in an airplane captain uniform, complete with hat.

Implementing Stay & Play

Toddlers and their guardians play on a play mat next to a long shelf of library books.

Stories from the Pilot


The five Stay & Play pilot libraries were:
  • Fresno County Public Library, Mendota
  • Nevada County Library, Grass Valley
  • San Jose Public Library, Educational Park
  • Santa Barbara Public Library, Eastside
  • Tulare County Library, Pixley
All five libraries participated in a formal evaluation of their Stay & Play services. Two of the key findings were: it was important to allocate sufficient and dedicated staff time to plan and create the Stay & Play services, and developing trusting relationships between caregivers and library staff was essential. See the full evaluation report.

Case Studies:

Case studies from two of the five pilot libraries and an archived statewide webinar highlight how this service model can be adapted to meet the unique needs of different libraries and the Family, Friend and Neighbor child care providers in their communities:


This project was made possible with funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. This project was supported in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. Thank you to Julie Weatherston, Early Childhood Development Specialist, for work on creating this toolkit, and to Engage R&D for conducting the project evaluation. In addition, the following organizations and individuals gave their considerable expertise, time and energy to make this project and resulting toolkit possible: The five pilot libraries and their respective staff teams:
  • Fresno County Public Library (Mendota Branch)
  • Nevada County Library (Grass Valley Branch)
  • San Jose Public Library (Educational Park Branch)
  • Santa Barbara Public Library (Eastside Branch)
  • Tulare County Library (Pixley Branch)
Advisory Committee Members: Carolyn Brooks, El Dorado County Library; Barbara Bruxvoort, San Bruno Public Library; Suzanne Flint, Child Development Specialist; Kathi Guerrero, El Dorado County First 5; Margaret Jerene, Alameda County First 5; Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library; and Lisa Regalla, Bay Area Discovery Museum


Contact: Christian Theyer, Stay & Play Project Manager All photos courtesy of the Early Learning with Families (ELF) initiative