A new play area at Upper Arlington Public Library’s Lane Road Library seeks to nurture socializing among children, while also helping to familiarize them with concepts like numbers and geography.
Although the ceremonial opening won’t be until 7 pm Oct. 4, visitors to the Lane Road Library, 1945 Lane Road, on Sept. 20 got the first look at the branch’s newest addition.
My Town, a new Early Learning Play Area on the library’s lower level, is a 500-square-foot space featuring several play options, including a “train table” that allows children to operate toy trains over a miniature map of Upper Arlington and a store counter and cash register that can be used to learn numbers.
An enclosed area for the library’s smallest visitors contains mirrors and provides space to crawl and play.
“The objectives of this project align with the state of Ohio’s Early Learning and Development standards for early childhood development and key skills development,” said Beth Hatch, UAPL director. “The goal in creating this enhanced space is to engage children in their social and emotional development through peer interactions and relationships, to foster creativity and critical thinking and cognitive development by providing opportunities and support for children to engage in pretend play together, and health and well-being by learning to explore through play, (like) shopping, cooking.”
The $80,000 space was built at no cost to the library, thanks to donors whose names are featured on street signs on a wall of the play area. The builder was Foundation Millwork & Stone, whose CEO, Tommy Anderson, is an Upper Arlington resident.
“We believe in play-based learning that covers all the early literacy skills we try to integrate into story time learnings,” said Sue Emrick, youth services librarian at the Lane Road Library. “This goes right along with that.
“It’s open-ended play. We like that it encourages creativity, problem-solving, socialization and things like that.”
Judging by the first day, My Town is a welcome addition. Throughout the morning, children circulated between various features as parents watched.
Among them were Lauren Glancy, who visited with her 2-year-old son, Paul, and Christine Piper, who watched her 3-year-old son, Noah, try out the new features.
“It’s great,” Glancy said. “The kids seem to love it. The new train table holds (Paul’s) attention for a very extended amount of time. It’s a great addition.
“I like that it’s enclosed. You can always see your child and keep an eye on what’s happening. We’ve always liked it down here, but now it’s even better.”
Piper added that the space brings the Lane Road Library more in line with the UAPL’s main branch at 2800 Tremont Road in terms of play features for young children. The main branch opened an Early Learning Play Area in June 2021.
That adds convenience, she said, because her family lives closer to the Lane Road branch.
“It’s, like, quadrupled (the play area) in size,” Piper said. “The fact that you can have more than just four kids playing at once is amazing.
“Now, I think we’re going to spend a lot more time here because it’s equivalent to Tremont. We’re excited about it. We’re looking forward to having some good play time.”
Glancy and Piper said they’re looking forward to seeing how the streetscape will help them develop geographic orientation skills as they grow older.
Those types of experiences are why the Upper Arlington Community Foundation provided $20,000 grants to each of the UAPL’s Early Learning Play Area projects.
Jessica Grisez, executive director of the UACF, said the foundation supported both projects because its board of trustees supports the role the UAPL plays in serving and developing children in the community.
“Libraries are some of our community’s most valuable resources to provide access to education and foster imagination,” Grisez said. “Libraries are changing, and we’re proud of UAPL for keeping up with this evolution in early childhood development through play-based learning, creativity and critical thinking.”