Ask a Ninja: My Baby Can Preschool

There are some really great talking points in these answers! Don’t forget to add your thoughts in the comments.

This week’s question:

What do you say to parents who want to bring their 2 year old to a preschool storytime because they are beyond the stuff in toddler storytime? You know their child and don’t feel they are developmentally ready for the next step.


Ingrid (@magpielibrarian) says: I don’t care how “advanced” the child is. Age guidelines are age guidelines and they are set. I have too many people showing up for my first 5 years programs to argue over stuff like this. If the parent claims the child is “too advanced” for my class, then they can work independently outside of story-time. If one parent wants to move up, then many of them will. Before you know it, Pre-K storytime is full of 2 year olds and the parents in there are complaining that too many young kiddos are running around.
I will do the reverse, meaning letting very few kids stay in a class that’s too young for them. That means letting a special needs Toddler stay behind in Babies and Books (or a 4 year old special needs child stay in Toddler Time). But this is only if the parent requests it and if the child is happy there.

Bridget (@bridgetrwilson) says: I don’t really have this problem. My four branch libraries have what we call “preschool storytime,” but as I’m a solo youth services librarian, it’s really for ages 0-5 or 6. Including such a wide age range makes for some wild storytimes, but we don’t really have another option at this time.

Jennifer (@jenahn) says:
First I would ask what does “beyond toddler storytime” mean?
As much as possible I would encourage the parent to stick with the toddler time or try the 1-5yr. storytime. I would explain that at the preschool storytime the stories are longer, more discussing and inferring between the children & the librarian as the story is being read, *the children come in without the caregiver or parent, and can sit without running or walking around as the stories are being read. Most 2yr olds are not able to do this which is fine because they’re 2. Hopefully the parent would then understand that her child, more than likely, is not ready for our preschool storytime.
*Our preschool storytimes are just with the children, no parents or caregivers. I do understand that not every preschool storytime is like this.

Jennie says: My programming space has no doors and can seat a few hundred people, so I can’t stop people from coming, but I program for the advertised ages. In this case, I would explain the things that happen in preschool storytime that I don’t think the 2-year-old is ready for, but would tell them that they were allowed to come and try and see what happens.

Kim (@librarylady2u)  says: I sometimes have this issue come up too. Like Ingrid said, I will sometimes make an exception for an older child to stay in a younger storytime, but not vice versa. I explain to the parent that we plan our storytimes according to where children are developmentally, with both cognitive and motor skills in mind. If they still protest, I will offer up one of our family drop-in storytimes, which are geared for ages 2 to 5.

Catherine (@zbeforey) says: Ingrid and I work in the same library, so my response will likely echo hers.  First our baby and toddler programs have set age limits across all 60 branches, and the Central Library, of the Brooklyn Public Library.  All Babies & Books programs are 0-18 months, all Toddler Time programs are for 18-36 months, and so on.At my location, the demand for these programs is huge and they always fill up to capacity.  When caretakers with children outside the publicized age range want to get in to a program, I tell them I can’t justify turning away an age-appropriate child to give a space to one who is too old or too young.

There’s always wiggle room, and space to make exceptions, especially if you aren’t filling your room.  But I think these should be granted on very rare occasions, or several parents and caretakers will be pleading with you to let their children in, too.

Finally, if this is a common request, maybe there are some activities you use in your preschool programs that you can introduce into the programs you do for younger children, but adapted for the age.  The grown-ups probably feel the toddlers are missing out on the fun and learning enjoyed by the preschoolers.  For example, if it’s arts and crafts, try adding a simple craft every now and again to the toddler program.  Hope this helps!

Abby (@abbylibrarian) says: We are as flexible as possible with age limits and/or siblings in programs, however we generally don’t have a problem with overcrowding, (which allows us to be flexible). I would tell the parent that they’re welcome to try it out and if their child isn’t into it, they can leave at any time. We are sometimes surprised by the children who can handle a program designed for older ages (and older children who are happier staying with a younger group). And we make an announcement at each storytime that if a child becomes distracted or a distraction to others, we ask parents to take him out for a break (which gives them permission to leave if they realize their darling isn’t paying attention after all…)

Lisa (@lmulvenna) says: We had this problem before we started registering for programs.  Now we register, are specific about ages for programs, and enforce it.  Unfortunately, it is rarely the case that the child is ready for the next step-the parent is just bored.  That is when those early literacy skills come into play.  Explain what the focus is of the program for their child’s age and why it is important for them to do this.  Then, reassure them that the next level story time will still be there when their child hits the correct age.  If they are still not happy, then I explain it in terms of size.  I want the best experience for all of the children in their age group.  An 18 month old does not have the size and gross motor skills to keep up with the 2-3 year old group when they are singing, dancing, and moving around.  When you have a room of 25 2-3 year olds, the chances increase that the 18 month old will get hurt and nobody wants that.

Tabin says: I tell the parent they are welcome to bring their child, hang out with them in the back and see how he reacts, which is code for, “When your child throws a Congress-sized tantrum he’ll be downgraded to toddler time.”

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About Kendra

Children's Librarian in the Northwest. Lover of toddlers, twitter, and TV (T's, too, apparently!).

Posted on October 15, 2013, in Ask a Storytime Ninja. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. At our location we have a “policy” – We don’t ID kids – When I start my storytime I say “Welcome to Preschool Storytime! The things we’ll do in here are geared towards the ages of 3-6, but we don’t check ID’s!” And when I talk to parents I welcome them to any storytime they feel comfortable going to, I do say “Well the preschool storytime is more for the 3-6 age group but if you think you’re child is ready for this, feel free to try it out – we don’t mind if you have to step out of storytime.” I personally feel it is unfair to ask parent’s to leave – we’re professionals and should be prepared to handle any age that comes to storytime. When I start to have my younger kids joining in I know to tailor it to a different demographic but I don’t go in and poll everyone, I’m trained to be multi-talented and should be able to adapt on the go.

  2. I also like to tell parents that part of the purpose of storytime is social, even very young children need to learn how to interact with their peers.

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