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Waterford Public Library uses craft kits to engage children virtually

Waterford — Jennifer Smith, head of children services at the public library, uploaded a video of herself to the library's Facebook page giving viewers a step-by-step process on how to make a walrus out of a paper plate.

The video is part of the biweekly Grab & Go craft series where parents can stop by the library and pick up a bag with craft supplies for their children to assemble at home.

"I love my job," said Smith, who has worked at the library for four and a half years. "It has been challenging but uplifting to find creative ways to engage with kids and teens."

Adapting to the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, the children's department at the library has found many ways to engage with the public from a distance.

The Grab & Go crafts started in early spring as a way to continue providing patrons services, Smith said. Nine months later, the series continues to do well, with the department handing out a minimum of 100 craft bags for each activity.

"It took off and I don't see them stopping," Smith said.

Apart from being a good way to keep children busy, she said, the crafts also help them develop fine motor skills such as improving hand-to-eye coordination, innovation and creativity.

Rashmi Sharma, an associate in the children's services department, said the series has helped kids a lot. Although the library is open to the public, Sharma said the children can't come in and play with the toys like before.

"With the crafts, everything is packed and ready for them to take," Sharma said.

Sharma added that the instructional videos often included recommended books that go with the theme of the craft and the children can come in and check out those books.

Smith said the series has been such a hit that the library also has created Grab & Go kits for adults with limited supplies once a month.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the department would hold multiple in-person story times where Smith or someone else would read a story. With the permission of publishing companies, those have transitioned to online Zoom events and also were held outdoors in the summer.

Smith said she is looking forward to the warmer months so the department can hold outdoor events again.

Among many other upcoming events, the department will offer five weekly online sessions starting Jan. 12 with NeuLingo called "Chinese for Families" to teach Mandarin language and Chinese culture to children and their caregivers. An online Teen Stress Relief program is scheduled for Jan. 22 in anticipation of mid-terms. With provided kits, teens will learn how to make stress balls and learn some relaxing tips.

The events are open to the public, regardless of whether the participant resides in Waterford. However, some online events do require registration.

For more information on how to get involved in the library's programs, visit waterfordct.org/library or call children's services at (860) 444-5805, ext. 3.

j.vazquez@theday.com

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