‘Toddlers Play @ the Park’

Library hosts outdoor experiences for kids

MARQUETTE — Getting slightly wet on a warm summer morning isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a toddler. In fact, it could be one of the best things.

“Toddlers Play @ the Park” for kids age 4 and under took place on Monday morning at Mattson Lower Harbor Park courtesy of the Peter White Public Library.

Overseeing the annual event was Sarah Rehborg, Youth Services librarian for the PWPL, with simple toys and play the focus.

“Water play is always a blast,” Rehborg said. “We have those water beads that you would find in flower vases. Kids love those.”

So do adults, judging from the comments heard at the park.

Kids also could paint with shaving cream — much less likely to mess up a cotton T-shirt — and shoot small balls through a hoop, blow bubbles and play by a wading pool with the requisite buckets and shovels, among other activities.

Rehborg acknowledged all those play stations could be a lot of work for a parent to set up for one child.

At Mattson Lower Harbor Park, they already were in place.

However, the play itself wasn’t overly structured.

“This is completely open play,” Rehborg said. “This is, what do they do with a bucket and a shovel and water? We set up a soccer ball and cones. What do they do with that? What do they do with the bubbles?

“It just allows them to explore, to play, and we get to go outside, which is great.”

Toddlers flocked to a wading pool filled with floating rubber duckies, a rocking horse and other stations.

A bubble machine was turned on, but the natural wind at the park, which is situated by Lake Superior, did a lot of the work, allowing youngsters to simply hold up their wands to let the bubbles fly.

Of course, it was fun to chase bubbles; one girl chased and popped a large double bubble.

That was the sort of tried-and-true — and irresistible — play the library held at the Park.

The PWPL, she said, has been bringing programs, such as story times, down to the park, which was the case in 2018.

“It’s just nice, because then people don’t have to choose between being outside and being at the library,” Rehborg said.

Kids can learn by watching youth-oriented educational television shows and reading books — at a library, school or another place — but actually experiencing what they’re watching and reading could help them learn even more.

Even at the risk of a stubbed toe or mosquito bite.

Danish psychotherapist and parenting expert and author Iben Sandahl advocated for letting kids play outside in a May 2018 article in Psychology Today in which she wrote: “Playing outside can seem dangerous, yes, but so many things can happen all the time, and today we spent most of the time protecting our children from bad things. By shielding them from the ‘natural hazards and accidents’ — by not allowing them to use their imagination and play in nature — we risk having children who will be paralyzed and frightened.

“Life is about getting skinned knees as well. It is about falling down and getting back up. No matter what, these experiences are small victories, which help shape resilience in a child in the long term.”

When Evie Parent of K.I. Sawyer, who is 1¢ years old, got wet frolicking near the wading pool on Monday, it was no big deal.

“I brought towels,” Rehborg said.

The toddler’s grandmother, Ann Anderson, said their participation in the event was an accident, although an enjoyable one.

“We just happened along on a good day,” she said. “And she’s having fun.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.