Is it still nerdy to love the library if you have one as cool as the Orange County Library? I have always loved visiting libraries, and I have lots of memories wasting away long summer days in some corner with a stack of books next to me. Now I take my toddler and, yes, we check out books, but we have found so much more there than I could have imagined. All of the branches have different calendars, but they all have wonderful programs and the OCLS website alone is a gem on rainy days (or our daily afternoon sun shower that blesses us during the summer). Here are some of the activities and resources OCLS offers to us lucky Orlando residents.
1. Story time
For us, Friday morning is story time morning. Vi practically bounces around the house until we go see her friends and she gets to dig the bells out of the big bag. There are usually bubbles, music, and stickers, and always funny songs and silly stories. There are three levels of story time: Tiny Tales (birth to 18 months), Toddler Time (18-36 months), and Storybook Fun (3-5). The story time readers always welcome siblings and friends, though! Check the calendar for each branch’s schedule.
2. The Melrose Center at the Downtown Branch
This is the place to be for any kids, tweens, and teens you know who want to build, innovate, and create. The Melrose Center is outfitted with numerous new resources including video production, audio, and photography studios, a fabrication lab, and a simulation lab. The best part is that OCLS offers Melrose Camps over the summer to give kids a chance to explore and learn about these crazy exciting resources. There are camps for kids (such as Mini-Media Producers for ages 6-8, which is free if you are in-district), and tweens and teens (such as It’s Sew Easy-Tote Bags for ages 11-17, which is also free if you are in-district). Visit their website for a complete list of their camps and more information.
3. Camp Savvy at the Downtown Branch
A summer camp designed for kids ages 6-12, Camp Savvy helps tech-loving youngsters learn more about computer programs while they win prizes and have fun. They offer classes such as Easy typing, The Virtual Painter, Building 3D Models, and Creating 2D Video Games. Look up all of the available classes at their website.
4. Hanging Out @ the Porch at the Downtown Branch
Specifically geared toward kids ages 6-18 who need something fun to do after school on Fridays, the branch on Central offers games, crafts, movies and other activities starting at 3:00.
5. Online Books and Stories
This is a very underutilized resource that I have shared with many of my friends, and I am always amazed at how many have no idea it exists. On the Kids Connect page of the OCLS website, there is a tab titled “Books and Stories” that offers resources for your kids to access some of the library’s fun while still at home. You can pick out a new book to check out from their Library Book Lists such as new arrivals, Accelerated Readers, and Sunshine State Readers. They can direct you toward ebooks, audio books, and online picture books just for kids. Some of their best storytellers are captured on video for your kids to watch from the comfort of their own pajamas, or you can download their stories as podcasts to listen to wherever you want.
6. Paws to Read
Do you have a blossoming reader who needs a little confidence? Be an Angel Therapy Dogs are fully certified and happy to be the furry, friendly listeners your little one needs. This program is offered at multiple branches, usually on Saturdays, but check the calendar for the specific dates that the pups will be at the branch nearest you.
7. Smart Start at the Downtown Branch
Anything that includes “dress for a mess” has my kid’s name written all over it. This hands-on learning class focuses on basic math, art, and science sensory experiences. The downtown branch offers Smart Start two Wednesdays a month.
8. Sunshine Story Time at the Chickasaw Branch
This story time is specifically designed for kids ages 3-8 who feel more comfortable in a small-group setting for stories, songs, and interactive play. Perfect for kids who have sensory, social, or developmental challenges or simply prefer a more individualized experience.
9. Get Ready for K at the Winter Garden and Edgewater Branches
Sometimes preschoolers need some help easing into their roles as big-kid kindergartners. This program uses songs and stories to help them learn the skills they will need to make the transition, such as reading, math, safety, basic concepts, and art.
From June 11th to August 13th, kids can earn prizes for reading books, taking classes, and attending events throughout the summer. Visit a branch or their website for more information and your copy of the official calendar that your child can fill out and turn in for prizes.
This is just a little sample of the fun stuff the Orange County Library is offering for kids this summer. Some classes require registration, and new events are popping up all the time, so visit the website for more information.