My husband and I received a nasty letter this week from our real estate agent. You see we belong to that second-class group of citizens known as renters, who live at the mercy of our landlords and we received that notice we live in fear of – that the rent is going up… again. And whenever we get one of those letters I find myself thinking about all the things we don’t have in our very basic three bedroom house – no dishwasher, no air-con, no built-ins, no lovely ensuite. But there is one thing we have that I appreciate more than all those other things put together and that is the humble bathtub!
The bath is just such a great way to keep small children occupied at the end of the day when they’re getting to that ratty, “I’m bored, I’m hungry, I’m tired” time of day known to many parents as ‘arsenic hour’. There have been many occasions when I’m looking after my niece and nephew and I’ve reached the point where if I have to adjudicate one more squabble I’m going to pull my eyelashes out one by one, so I’ll just chuck them all in the bath together and buy myself half an hour of peace.
There seems to be something about the bath that has a natural calming effect on kids. You know yourself how at the end of a bad day a warm bath can be really soothing. It’s the same for kids, all that warm water seems to calm down their overstimulated little nervous systems and help them relax. Also, so often when kids get ratty it’s because of some physical need that’s not being met. If they’re hot, you can throw them in the bath to cool down, if it’s a cold day you can throw them in a warm bath to warm up. If they’re hungry, it distracts them until dinner’s ready. It’s a win-win situation.
The bath also helps bridge the age gap between kids. There’s almost five years between my girls, but when they have a bath it’s one of their best play times together. Water play really isn’t that different whether you’re five or three or one. Before we had Molly I used to feel quite sad that Birdy had nobody to play with in the bath, so now I get a lot of joy from seeing them playing and laughing together. And for babies, it never gets boring! They learn so much from playing with water – splashing, pouring from one thing into another, learning what floats and what sinks, blowing bubbles, watching the water disappear down the plug hole – what a great mystery that is for a baby! The properties of water are endlessly fascinating.
So yes, bathtime is now one of my absolute favourite times of the day. It probably comes a close second to Mummy’s quiet cup of tea time, while Molly takes a nap. That’s also a pretty special time of day.
One of the things that I’ve been wanting to do this year is to have a little bit more structure and routine in the week. When you first have a new baby, it can be very hard to find any kind of structure in your life. But this year I really want to make the effort to get out of the house and do some things with Molly. And the first thing on my list is to do a regular trip to the local library.
When Birdy was little I used to take her to the library once or twice a week, but since she’s been at school, she now brings home books from the school library and we haven’t been going up to our local library as much. But during the holidays our book supply was cut off so we found ourselves back the local library out of sheer desperation. And the funny thing is, whenever we go to the library, Birdy still wants to see the Library Storytime man that used to come and read to her class at daycare. That’s two or three years ago. He is like a rock star to her. She goes all shy and says, “Look, Mum there’s the Library man!” He obviously made a big impression on her.
Because I had my new children’s book out last year, I actually went to read it at some of the local library Storytime sessions. I was pleasantly surprised by how well attended they were. I visited a number of different libraries, Ryde, Balmain, Leichhardt, Mosman and they were all packed to the rafters. Some of them had more than 40 kids turning up for Storytime! I was encouraged that so many parents recognise the value of doing this kind of activity with their kids. And it’s free! There is so little you can do these days that is free.
I was also impressed by how lovely many of the story spaces are now. So many libraries have made it a priority to open up their space, or to have a special room that they’ve decorated for the kids. It makes the library so much more appealing for the children. When I was a child, libraries were somewhere you had to be quiet and they weren’t much fun to visit. Now the best libraries are much more of a community centre. Leichhardt Library is a great example of that. It’s right in the middle of the Italian forum, really easy to access and very much in the heart of the community. Sadly, in other parts of the world, such as in the UK many public libraries are closing down. Last week I heard a really interesting interview with with Caitlin Moran who’s the author of How to Be A Woman. (She’s pretty out there so don’t take this as an endorsement!) One of the things she was talking about was that the closure of public libraries has been such a loss in the UK. She pointed out that libraries are one of the last places you can go without needing to spend money or without having any kind of commercial exchange. In a library, your choices aren’t limited by your finances. That’s why they’re such a great place to take little kids. If they say ‘I want this’, you can say ‘Sure thing’ and it doesn’t cost you anything. If they want ten books, you can still say ‘No worries!’. And if they want to stay and look at the books for 2 hours, there’s no pressure to leave just because you’ve finished your coffee an hour ago.
So if you haven’t already, make this the year you introduce your kids to the local library. Find out when your nearest Storytime is and make it a regular date. Not only does it foster a love of books and learning in your children, but according to Professor Torr from the Institute of Early Childhood at Macquarie University, studies show that a child’s pre-school vocabulary relates to their literacy achievement in later life. In other words, reading to your child now does affect their future learning outcomes. We’re really lucky to have this amazing free resource, so make the most of it. Otherwise one day you’ll drive past and notice there’s a shiny new McDonalds or Starbucks where your local public library used to be.
Do you enjoy Storytime at your local library? Is your library kid-friendly?