Check ‘Em Out! Free Summer Library Programs for Kids


IMG_7677Like many Valley moms, I panicked as summer approached. How would I keep my kids occupied? I needed free, indoor activities we could attend when we (mainly, me) started to go stir crazy from being stuck in the house due to scorching temps. I remembered going to the library during my childhood summers. Air-conditioned. Kid-friendly. Free. Perfect! My girls and I are storytime regulars at several of the Scottsdale Public Library branches and at the Phoenix Public Library’s Mesquite branch. These aren’t the sit-and-stay-silent storytimes my parents took me to! Today’s library programs use games, movement, songs and stories to develop literacy. It’s been a great way to beat the heat and experience learning disguised as fun.

Valley libraries have several summer programs every day of the week for children of all ages.

Below are my favorites for ages 5 and younger:


Scottsdale Public Library

Fancy Nancy storytime.  Image used with permission from  Fancy Nancy. (
Fancy Nancy storytime. Images used with permission. (

Shake, Rattle & Roll: Your little one can’t sit still? This Scottsdale Public Library signature program wants your wiggle worm to stand, dance, and sing! Movement and song occupy the entire 30 minutes, keeping active kiddos happy and engaged.

Fancy Nancy: The star of the beloved children’s book series, Fancy Nancy, delights attendees with a story and interactive games. This was one of my favorite programs since Fancy Nancy was exceptional with the children. It’s hard to keep little ones focused, but she did just that with her over-the-top fanciness and calling on volunteers to help her with the activities. I was happy to learn from Fancy Nancy’s website that she moonlights as other characters!

Superhero Storytime: A lively mix of superhero themed stories and imaginative games. My toddler has a hard time sitting still for very long, so the combination of listening to a book and then standing to play superhero was perfect for her! Kids could dress like their favorite superhero which made this themed storytime even more fun. My 5-year-old asks me daily when we’re going again!


Phoenix Public Library

bubblesToddler Time: Stories, activities and songs for active toddlers and their short attention spans. The pace is quick, books are short, and frequent song breaks keep the tots engaged. The best part is the bubble time at the end.

Every Hero Has a Story: Free Summer Programs: Each week a different special guest visits the library for an hour of all-ages entertainment. So far we’ve seen a magician, a juggler, and our favorite, Rich Ihle of Reptile Adventures. Rich brought a few of his reptile friends to visit the kids, including a giant snake! His outgoing personality and immense reptile knowledge put any apprehensive children (and parents) at ease. I’ve seen many school aged children there, making this weekly program a good event to attend if you have children of multiple ages.

Free Summer Programs: Reptile Adventures with Rich Ihle. Images used with permission. (
Free Summer Programs: Reptile Adventures with Rich Ihle. Images used with permission. (


Know Before You Go!

  • Arrive early! Due to limited space, branches distribute tickets for admission on a first come, first-served basis. Arriving 15 minutes early is usually fine, although you may need to arrive as much as 30 minutes ahead of time for the more popular programs. Ask a librarian for the inside scoop.IMG_7223
  • Seek out the branch’s children’s area. It’s stocked with books, puzzles, blocks, coloring, and more, helping to make waiting for the program to begin more bearable for everyone.
  • Use caution with food and beverages. The policies seem to vary, so ask a librarian what is acceptable.
  • Be prepared to sit on the floor. There may not be enough chairs for all the adults in attendance, or there may not be any chairs in the program room.
  • Earn badges and points for the library’s Summer Reading Program just by attending an event! Look for the “code” at the event or ask a librarian. Register here for the Maricopa County Libraries’ Summer Reading Program.

Summer programs run through the end of July, but “check out” your local library’s online calendar for year-round programs you can attend with your little ones to keep them occupied and learning.

What are your favorite summer library programs? What tips do you have for making the most of them?

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Beth Grady
After growing up in The Valley, Beth Grady took a hiatus from the desert to see what life was in like in Los Angeles and New York. She and her husband moved back to her hometown of Scottsdale where she’s now a proud girl mom to her five and eight-year-old daughters, and happy puppy mom to the world’s craziest 1-year-old “super mutt”. Beth spent time in the corporate marketing world doing some fun things for Us Weekly and Peter Piper Pizza, but has since said good-bye to celebrities and pepperoni to start her own marketing consulting business where she works with local small businesses. A fan of cold brew, kombucha, barre, pilates, and impromptu dance parties, Beth can navigate through her nearest Target with her eyes closed.