With Christmas music adding to a festive atmosphere, children explored colors and textures during a new program at the Stewart C. Meyer Harker Heights Public Library.
Parents and kids enjoyed the Baby & Toddler Art Experience, which was offered on three Tuesdays in November and December..
“The Art Experience is in a similar format as our other children’s programs but more focused on the art aspect,” said Amanda Hairston, children’s librarian. The experience is meant to encourage creativity and to build fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and understanding cause and effect.
Cause-and-effect was a particularly fun lesson with huge, soft building blocks. Kids concentrated on constructing their creations then couldn’t wait to tear them down with hands or feet or both.
Chaos was barely contained with a variety of artistic media from which to choose, from mess-free finger painting to molding clay and sidewalk chalk.
Music was part of the experience as little hands played xylophones, shakers, bells, maracas and drums. Colorful sensory tiles conjured patterns similar to a lava lamp when stepped upon.
Hairston said it’s a program led by children and their interests while parents are active participants, working with their children at different art and music stations and during circle time.
“Children will gravitate to the things they like the best,” Hairston said. “It’s super fun for them. Play is how they’re learning. Certain actions teach certain skills.”
Rhyming and song, for example, is a first step on the road toward literacy. “When they start learning to read later they’ll already be wired up and ready,” Hairston said.
“We get parents thinking about learning in a different way,” she said. “They’re with their children all day so taking an hour to focus only on building skills makes parents think about it on a new level.”
Hairston knows many of the parents and children. “We have a lot of regulars, but we always want new people to come see us. Parents are really in tune to what we’re doing.”
One mom saw even more benefits to the library art experience programs.
“At their ages they just want to explore what everything does,” said Rachel Schappell of Temple. Formerly a Killeen resident, Schappell and her two youngsters, Parker, 4, and Emma, 2, still make the drive to Harker Heights for library programs.
“I hope Parker does well because he doesn’t like crowds,” she said. “This helps him learn to interact with others and make new friends besides the core group of friends he has.”
She thinks her 2-year-old will start learning to follow instructions as well as how to express herself better with art.
Schappell encourages artistic expression at home with an art corner complete with an easel and supplies.
“They learn different ways to work with paint,” she said. “Emma discovered the other day she can use a Q-tip as a paintbrush.”
Of course, serious art needs serious supervision, especially when glitter is involved.
“My patio is all glittery now,” Schappell said.
Starting this month, the library will offer Little Steamers, introducing STEAM concepts for infants, toddlers and preschool-age children. A session for children (18 months and younger) is at 9 a.m. and slightly older children (19 months to 5 years old) at 10 a.m. No prior registration is required.