A mother and daughter play with blocks.

Early Learning Approach

Four broad categories of early childhood programming are critical to the successful delivery of Stay & Play. These build on the principles of California State Library’s Early Learning with Families (ELF) initiative. For more details about each of the aspects listed below, see the ELF website.

Importance of Play

Play is the lens through which children explore and discover the world around them. It is a vital part of early development and supports children’s social and emotional learning as well as builds their fine and gross motor skills. What makes play meaningful: when play is spontaneous, unscripted, and children are allowed to make their own decisions; when children become immersed in the moment; and when they are intrinsically motivated.

A recently published report Together, Learning More! Interactive Family Learning in California’s Libraries includes research on the importance of play in a child’s development, its role in supporting social and emotional learning, and how California public libraries across the state are engaging young children and their families by providing innovative, high-quality interactive learning opportunities in their communities.

Value of adult caregivers and the power of relationships

A strength-based approach to human interactions is central to an effective Stay & Play program and transforms and improves patron participation as well as staff morale. This approach applies to working with children and their adult caregivers. A strength-based approach focuses on opportunities to support existing strengths and capacities and is a paradigm shift away from solving ‘problems’ to reinforcing a person’s own skills and abilities. It doesn’t mean that staff avoid addressing areas of concern, however it informs the how and when staff discuss these issues. Ongoing opportunities to develop, practice and hone strength-based skills and social emotional learning, through training such as Touchpoints™, are a recommended foundational element of any effective early learning practice like Stay & Play. Supporting strength-based staff interactions can build impactful relationships with and between staff, children, and caregivers.

Staff support and ongoing learning

All staff, even trained and experienced staff, can benefit from ongoing opportunities to continue learning about relationship building and early childhood development. Look for opportunities to participate in Early Learning with Families (ELF) workshops, a Touchpoints™ in Libraries training, a Mind in the Making course, or a California Libraries Learn (CALL) training course. Such ongoing professional development opportunities are important to the implementation and long-term success of Stay & Play. Another research-informed resource on this topic is the Strengthening Families and the Protective Factors Framework that offers a pathway to improved outcomes for children and families.

How young children learn and thrive

All learning is a developmental process. Children and their skill sets become increasingly complex and organized with age. Everything a child sees, touches, tastes, smells, or hears shapes the brain for thinking, feeling, moving, and learning. When children have high-quality early learning experiences they are better prepared to succeed in school and in life.