By Carrie Parker
Primary-colored toys were strewn about Huntington Public Library’s lower-level auditorium, where children puttered to and fro among xylophones and puzzles, puppets and parents on Saturday. The baseline of “We Are Family” grooved beneath hubbub of toddlers babbling, cooing and peek-a-boo-ing. It was only 11 a.m., but the Huntington Public Library’s Together Time program was already in full swing.
Together Time is just one of the family-oriented programs HPL offers and that many parents treasure for the connections to be made with educators, other parents and children, and with their own children.
“At home you’re running around all the time, so this is great,” said Kriti Gupta, of Huntington, as her 1-year-old son, Shaurya, rocked back-and-forth contentedly on a wooden rocking horse. “At home you cannot have so much open space and so many different things he can try.”
Christine Sullivan, also of Huntington, said she started coming to Together Time with her 5-year-old son, Rowan, and now brings daughter Anna, 2.
“He’s actually made some good friends from this program and so has she,” Sullivan said as Anna worked with laser-focus on building her Lego skyscraper ever-higher. “They’ve had this program for years, and we love it. My son loved it, and now she loves it.”
“We try to have as many programs as we can,” said Laura Giuliani, HPL’s head of youth and parent services. “We hope that a love of reading is fostered when they are young and that they can continue to come to the library and get exposed different things and activities, and make friends here through programs.”
Librarian Maureen Comerford added that the program is “great for parents to meet other people in the community that they may not have necessarily met.”
Comerford said the library also often tries to book Joyce Oddo, of Jump for Joy, a one-woman traveling workshop that bounces from library to library across Long Island promoting child play. Comerford said Oddo enhances Together Time with a unique combination of music, dance, education and free play.
Oddo views the program as a way to get kids “moving and learning at the same time.”
“A lot of times now kids have a lot of electronic equipment so they’re not moving and dancing and exercising as much as they should be,” she said.
Saturday’s activities continued into the afternoon, when Family Yoga brought the auditorium back to life with bright pastel yoga mats and lots of laughter.
Instructor Alana Andresen, along with husband Joe Seeman and daughter Joelle, 16 months, all of East Patchogue, led the class through a series of creative poses, games and crafts.
“Family yoga is different,” Seeman said, glancing at the girls sprinting at the front of the room. “It’s not as structured or regimented. You have to gauge what the kids need at that time because, as you see, a lot of times they have a lot of energy and need to be up and moving around.”
Andresen added, “They go off and work together, and sometimes they’ll want to spend more time or do more partner poses you have to be so flexible.”
Deirdre Cunningham and daughter Angelica, 5, worked side by side as Andresen led the class through downward dog, donkey kick, boat pose and peace bracelet making.
“We do every program at the library,” Cunningham said with a smile. “They have so many good programs.”
“Angelica started kindergarten in September but she met a boy at a sidewalk chalk program here in July,” Cunningham said about the connections they’ve made. “He ended up being in her class. And it was thanks to the library.”