Young ones filled the Hopkins Library’s children’s area Wednesday. In one corner, a boy “cooked” plastic vegetables on a pretend grill. In the center, two boys—one wearing a backwards fireman’s helmet—arranged magnetic gears. Throughout the space, children read books, played with letters and let their imaginations run wild.
Wednesday wasn’t exceptional, though. Nearly two years after it was created, the children’s area remains a big draw. Children and their caretakers—moms, dads, grandparents, daycare providers, nannies and more—flock to the space each day for play and learning.
“It’s a real magnet,” Senior Librarian Lisa Bjerken said.
The children’s area got its start in July 2010 as a pilot project with the Children’s Museum. The idea was to create a space that encouraged children to use their imaginations through unstructured play.
Children can put plastic hamburgers on a pretend grill. They can imagine themselves driving a child-sized bulldozer and fire truck. They can use pretend money to play store (Bjerken recalled one entrepreneurial youngster who tried to sell her the bulldozer for $400).
The Hopkins Library may be part of the larger Hennepin County system, but there's no doubt in which city it resides. The children's area echoes Hopkins' Mainstreet and has a map where children can match up the city's landmarks. It even has a street sign with Hopkins’ famous raspberry.
But fun as it may be for the children, it also encourages reading and literacy. Children proudly grab letters that match their name. On Wednesday, a woman read to children in a corner.
Book bins ring the play area. Baskets of books sit on the floor—the perfect level for crawlers and toddlers. The books nearest the play area are constantly checked out.
“There’s a lot of learning going on,” Bjerken said. “It’s really organic.”