• 7 Kids Websites That Combine Games and Learning



    Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

    Looking for educational websites or educational games for kids? Here are 7 websites that are chock full of fun facts, learning experiences, and games. 


    ABCYa (Grades PreK-6) - This site includes a large number of educational games for kids in PreK-6 grade. The games cover a wide variety of topics including, math, English, and strategy. All games are free on the website. A premium version is available for purchase that includes no ads and mobile access. 


    FunBrain (Grades PreK-8) - Games, reading selections, and videos for kids in PreK-8 grade. All of the content is free. However, ads are shown on the side and after playing a game.  


    Google Arts and Culture (Grades 3-8) Explore art, museums, history, and landmarks throughout the world. Games include digital art, puzzles, music experimentation, and augmented reality. 


    Met Kids (Grades 3-8) - Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art with interactive exhibits, behind the scenes videos, and project activities inspired by famous artworks. 


    National Geographic Kids (Grades PreK-8) - Games, videos, and fun facts on animals, history, and science.  


    PBS Kids (Grades PreK-5) Featuring your favorite PBS Kids characters, including Sesame Street, Daniel Tiger, Curious George, and more! These games cover education topics from engineering to history to math.


    Smithsonian Kids ( Grades PreK-8)  - Live animal webcams,  games, project ideas, and opportunities to explore the Smithsonian’s exhibits. 


    Looking for more educational information, help with homework, or practice worksheets? Check out ourdatabases for kids




      Youth Services Librarian Ann 


  • The Great Backyard Bird Count

    TheGreat Backyard Bird Count is an annual event where bird enthusiasts around the world come together to watch/listen for and count as many birds as they can. The event lasts for four days, and anyone can participate! According to the Great Backyard Bird Count website, all you have to do to participate is:

    1. Decide where you’d like to watch birds. 
    2. Watch birds for at least 15 minutes, over the four days of the bird count, between February 18 and February 21, 2022.
    3. Count all the birds you see or hear within the time you’ve planned your bird watch. 

    For more information on how to participate, check outthe Great Backyard Bird Count’s website. 

    Here at the Barrington Area Library, we have a plentiful amount of books to help guide you on your birdwatching journey, but here are a few that we think might be especially helpful.


    We’d love to hear about your experience with the Great Backyard Bird Count! Email us at youthservices@balibrary.org with any photos or tales from your birding adventures!







        Youth Services Specialist Stefanie 

  • 6 "Kindie" Albums for Hipsters of All Ages

    Are you looking for some sweet tunes that'll match your little one's independent spirit? Have you memorized every Disney soundtrack? Can you recite the lyrics to every Wiggles album ever? Looking for something a little different? Join the kindie rock revolution!

    Kindie ("kid" + "indie") music is a relatively new genre of children's music in which artists approach child-friendly themes with an earnest, singer-songwriter mindset.

    Here are 6 great albums to get started.


    Former Blue's Clues host and children's media superstar Steve Burns teams up with Flaming Lips multi-instrumentalist Steven Drozd to produce a sprawling, ambitious album that's as laugh-out-loud funny as it is radically sincere. Burns accompanies the listener through a bizarre world occupied by unicorns ("The Unicorn and Princess Rainbow"), giants ("If You're Ginormous and You Know It"), clever ocean critters ("Mimic Octopus"), and more. Sometimes songs are instructional, like "A Fact Is a Gift You Give Your Brain," whereas others are dedicated to exploring feelings of joy, sadness, love, disappointment, and determination ("The Happy Then Sad Then Triumphant Spider," "The Lonely Unicorn Is Never Giving Up!"). Burns knows that kids are just as capable of genuine insight as they are total absurdity, and he manages to walk the line between these two extremes without sacrificing musical quality. The album never wears out its welcome, as Burns and Drozd make every song dynamic and unique, from the garage rock-tinged "Space Rock Rock" to the narrated soundscape of the titular closing track. Foreverywhere is a treat for adults and kids alike, and is sure to enjoy regular rotation around the house.


    Caspar Babypants
    Hot Dog!

    Erstwhile singer of the Presidents of the United States of America ("Lump," "Peaches") Chris Ballew offers up 19 cozy, kid-friendly tracks with an old school rock-and-roll sensibility. Ballew-as-Babypants is so prolific that I could have filled this post with nothing but his music and that would still be a decent introduction at best... so if he's a hit with your family, you're in luck! Hot Dog! begins with the doo-wop-influenced "Sugar Ant," then transitions into rock-and-rollers like "Crazy Blue Beetle" and "Summer Baby (Let It Ride)," as well as softer tracks like "This Old Whale" and "Eleanor the Elegant Elephant." Songs like "Bunny Brown" and "I Don't Mind" would feel perfectly at home in the repertoire of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Babypants's world is gentle, absent of the world-shaking revelations of Foreverywhere -- but no less empowering. And for you Beatlemaniacs out there: he has released three albums of Beatles covers -- Baby Beatles!, Beatles Baby!, and Best Beatles! I'm particularly fond of his cover of "Here Comes the Sun," which enjoyed regular play in our program playlist.


    Frances England
    Blue Skies and Sunny Days

    This gentle, 8-song adventure from kindie veteran Frances England is the perfect soundtrack to a lazy day filled with play, a road trip, or much-needed downtime after a long, stressful day. England immediately sets the tone with the aptly-titled "Carefree," capturing the feeling with verses about school's end, going to the movies, and most importantly, spending time with the ones you love. Despite its title "Into the Wild" maintains a cozy, laid-back approach as England explores the difficult position of being bored and having too much energy. "Not Just My Sister" celebrates the titular sibling ("she's not just my sister, she's my best friend"). "Good Day" is a slice-of-life anthem punctuated with finger snaps and self-backing vocals. "If You Want to Sing Out" encourages little ones to forge their own paths, to express themselves however they're comfortable ("if you want to be me, be me/if you want to be you, be you"). "Mama Said" has the narrator find strength in their mother's advice. "Perfect Tuesday Afternoon" feels like a sonic sibling to "Carefree." Album closer "Watching You Grow" flips the perspective to the caretaker, as England celebrates the joy of watching her little one grow up ("I feel so proud it's hard to measure/A love so big, so deep forever/Watching you grow, watching you grow").


    The Okee Dokee Brothers

    Time for some seasonal fun! Bluegrass musicians the Okee Dokee Brothers celebrate winter, from the first snowfall to the first signs of spring. The Brothers open the album with "Blankets of Snow," a joyous Appalachian-style number complete with hollers and shouts. "Ice Fishin' Shack" portrays the simple joy of spending time with a buddy. Silly banjo-driven tune "The Abominable Yeti" warns listeners about the mythical beast. "You You You," a potential bedtime favorite, thanks the listener for being themselves. The mostly-a cappella interlude "Slumberjack" gives the listener tips on how to fall asleep. The Brothers incorporate ukulele in the self-explanatory "Ukulele in a Snowstorm." "Howl" celebrates being "the wild ones," complete with wolfish howling -- a great song for getting out some excess energy! The appropriately-sleepy "Lazy Day" is accented by muffled brass and yawns. The energy picks up afterward with "North Country Dance Band," followed by the ode to nature "Great Grandmother Tree." Penultimate track "New Year" explores the gentle transition between the old and the new. The album closes with the upbeat "Signs of Spring," pointing out the little moments that make the incoming season so lovely, while acknowledging that, like the cycling seasons, "death is part of life." For fans of Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, Fleet Foxes, or anyone looking for the perfect album to accompany a cold night in.


    Lisa Loeb
    Feel What U Feel

    Lisa Loeb kicks off this sunny slab of pop rock with the infectious "Moon Star Pie (It's Gonna Be Alright)," assuaging childhood anxieties with reassurances and advice ("twist yourself up like a cinnamon pretzel, connect the dots with the spots of your freckles"). "Say Hello," which encourages listeners to overcome that-all-too-awkward feeling when one meets someone new, is bolstered by bombastic orchestral flourishes. Craig Robinson (The Office, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) hops onto the title track, which finds him trading off kid-friendly raps about feelings and why it's okay to experience them:

    "Feeling weird-o
    Itchy beard-o
    Something’s just not right
    Rat race
    Need space
    Skin’s on too tight
    Guess what? It’s okay!
    Go on and feel what u feel today..."

    The gentle chords of heartstring-tugger "I Was Here" are perfect accompaniment to the track's self-affirming lyrics. "You Can Count on Me" and "The Sky Is Always Blue" assure the listener that they are not alone and that things will work out in the end. "Wiggle" is an instructional dance number. Craig Robinson rejoins Loeb for "It's All Right to Cry," telling kids that, even if they're strange, feelings are real, and they change, and that's okay. Loeb rounds out the album with a lullaby version of "You Can Count on Me" -- another potential bedtime favorite.


    Jack Forman
    Hold the Phone

    Recess Monkey alum Jack Forman opens this indie pop-influenced opus with "The Sun Comes Up Again," an ode to our favorite star and the things it does for us. Ska number "I Had to Pee (On a Ferris Wheel)" describes this exact nightmare scenario with side-splitting detail. Harry Potter fans will enjoy "Little Dobby Does It," a sonic biography of the hapless house elf. "The Cat Walk" paints a portrait of a particularly arrogant furry family friend, complete with meowed vocals. "Surprise Party" invites the listener to join a birthday party. "I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing" finds the narrator lamenting his decision to eat an entire birthday cake, a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies, and other treats. Forman utilizes his upper register in "Tooth Fairy Works Nights," paying tribute to that unsung provider of small bills. The chaotic "Assembly Line" describes all the little things that have to happen just to get a little one to school. If you're looking for something on the silly side, be sure to check out Hold the Phone.


    Looking for some personalized selections? Fill out this form and you’ll receive a customized list direct to your inbox!

      Youth Services Librarian Chris 


  • Get Moving! - The Benefits of Dance and Creative Movement

    Dance is so much more than a ballet or tap class! Dance and creative movement are great indoor, at-home activities that can benefit your young child as well as get older children and caregivers moving!

    Both structured dance with prescribed moves and free-flowing creative movement have real benefits.

    • Physical Fitness - the most obvious benefit of boppin' to the beat is that it is great exercise. Plus a bonus benefit of getting the wiggles out!
    • Body Awareness - young children may not always know exactly what their bodies can and can't do or how to stay in their own space. Dance and creative movement helps them learn coordination and spatial awareness.
    • Social Skills - everyone moves through the world a little differently and dance helps show that not everyone will interpret the beat or rhythm of life the same way. Be you always!
    • Concentration - following instructions or trying to remember what comes next in a sequence of events are important skills in early childhood development. Dance and creative movement give children a fun and active way to work on these important skills.

    These are just some of the great benefits that dance and creative movement have to offer.

    Here's a few ways you can enjoy the benefits at home:

    • Plan a dance party! Make a short playlist with a couple songs that have prescribed movements and a couple songs that are just fun to bounce around to. Dance with your child so they have a model to follow when in doubt about their own creative confidence. Register for our Virtual Story Time Dance Party on February 16, 2021!
    • Play freeze dance! Put on a few of your favorite kid-friendly tracks but make sure your child knows when the music stops they stop. Play around with giving instructions on how to freeze - like make a silly face or pose like a statue.
    • Dance with scarves! Sometimes figuring out how to move is hard. Having a manipulative helps focus the movement and gives an opportunity for following instructions.

    Need help finding some music? Check out thisblog post or contactYouth Services for some recommendations.

      Youth Services Librarian Demitra 

  • Unboxing Early Learning Kits: Active Play

    We have a ton of different materials for our littlest customers, including our expanding Early Learning Backpack collection. We have several new Early Learning Backpacks. 

    Active Play  

    The active play kits feature books, balancing stones, or another interactive toy that promotes active and pretend play. Playing is an important component of early literacy development. 

    Balance Stepping Stones  

    Let your little one get active with some stepping stones. The kit features 4 stepping stones that help promote gross motor movement. They also help your little one with balancing and coordination. Get creative and allow some imaginative play with the stepping stones as well. 


    Melissa & Doug Pizza Party Play Set 

    Have your child explore imaginative play and have some fun with a pizza party. Create and design your favorite pizza creations. With 63 pieces, your little one can play pretend, which will help with developing their abstract thinking skills. 


    Learn different ways to share while playing, as you cuddle up to read some books. 

    Blocks by Irene Dickson 

    Can I Play Too? by Samantha Cotterill


    Active play will help keep your child engaged and learning. Check out all of Early Learning Kits available at the library. 


      Youth Services Assistant Librarian MaryJo 


  • Let's Play Pretend

    Anyone who knows about the Barrington Area Library Youth Services Department knows that we love play of all kinds! One type of play that we just love is pretend play - from putting on some dress-up clothes to transform into a puppy dinosaur, to using play kitchen supplies to play house, to building a ship with blocks to sail the wide open seas. Sometimes children may not even need any toys or manipulatives to come up with fantastical scenarios.

    Even when the pretend play seems so outlandish that it no longer has any connection to reality, children are engaging in a process that will greatly benefit them later in life.


    Most obviously, pretend play is a great way for children to flex their creative skills but it also allows them to work on critical thinking and problem solving skills. By working through the scenarios they create they are building cognitive abilities that will translate to real world skills. 

    Pretend play also allows children to develop social and emotional health. Engaging in cooperative pretend play means that children are learning how to navigate social situations and learning how to interact with others, such as taking turns, making compromises, and understanding others. It also helps regulate emotional responses. Becoming too aggressive or throwing a tantrum if things don’t go the child’s way will inevitably stop the play, and no one wants that! Pretend play is also a great place for children to work through real life emotions, such as being scared or upset. They can work through these big feelings in a safe space and learn how to handle their emotions once they leave their imaginary world behind.

    If that wasn’t enough, pretend play also helps develop language and communication skills. It takes a lot of non-verbal cues, talking it out, and clearly communicating the scenario for a pretend play session to be successful and fun for all involved - who wants to play if you can’t figure out what’s happening? Children will quickly learn how to use language and communicate with one another to provide themselves with the best play experience possible. It also gives them a chance to test out new vocabulary they may have learned at a visit to the doctor, zoo, or even the grocery store.


    We all know how great pretend play is, but what can you do as a parent to make sure they are getting enough of the good stuff to make it happen? 

    Talk to them. As you go through your day explain what you are doing and point things out to them - this increases vocabulary and gives them the building blocks to create their pretend worlds. 

    Provide some simple props. While there are some really great high tech toys out there, sometimes simple is best. A few dress up items, a couple dolls, and even some (child safe) kitchen items you no longer need are all fair game.

    Encourage them. As children are building up an imaginary world, they may want to tell you all about it. Ask some questions and let them work through the answers all on their own. Sometimes they may not make much sense to us, but they are working on it!


    Further Reading

    The Benefits of Pretend Play

    The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development

    Why Pretend Play Is Important to Child Development

    8 Ways to Encourage Pretend Play in Kids


      Youth Services Librarian Demitra 

  • Let them play! By themselves?

    What is solitary play?

    Solitary play or independent play is play that allows a child to entertain themselves and learn independence without interaction from adults or other children.


    But doesn’t that mean I’m just ignoring my child while I engage in other tasks?

    No! Solitary play is an important part of childhood development and allows children to develop independence, imagination, creativity, concentration, and problem solving skills. 


    Okay, solitary play is good, but now what?

    Create a child safe zone for the play to happen. If you can designate a space that is free of hazards but within eyesight that would be best. Provide one or two open ended options for your child - too many options may actually overwhelm a child and lead to a less meaningful play experience. This can be a set of age appropriate blocks or even some kitchen items like Tupperware that can be stacked or sorted. Consider combining a few items to encourage imaginative scenarios for slightly older toddlers or preschoolers.


    Can I get more information about solitary play?


    Mindful Moment

    Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe slowly. Acknowledge your feelings both positive and negative. Breathe deeply as you accept that these are valid. Be patient with yourself. 

      Youth Services Librarian Demitra