Come and Play at the Madison Public Library!
At Madison Public Library we know that child-led play has incredible benefits to children’s learning -- in academic, physical, and social-emotional realms. In fact, over the last few years, after learning more about the Anji Play approach and designing the PlayLab at the Pinney Library, Madison Public Library has truly become a leading innovator in the intersection between libraries and child-led play. Learn more about Anji Play here.
New Materials, New Play
At the beginning of 2022 the Madison Public Library Foundation provided financial support to update the play spaces at all of our nine libraries in order to reflect our philosophy around play City-wide. We very deliberately chose new, fun and minimally structured materials that allow kids to come up with their own ideas and figure out solutions to their own problems.
The new, open-ended play materials can be used in a variety of different ways depending on your child's interests and imagination. We have things that you can stack up, step on, crawl over, and things that make you want to move.
Find the Right Play for You
Check out some very special play things at each library!
Alicia Ashman Library
Alicia Ashman Library is located on Madison, Wisconsin's west side at 733 N. High Point Rd, just off of Old Sauk Rd. This library has an old-world feel, with lot of dark wood and high ceilings. The Alicia Ashman Library’s play space is a wonderland of creativity. With an intriguing collection of “weird” open-ended play materials, we’ve overheard kids creating everything from Rapunzel’s Tower to a “dinosaur bone park” and so much more! New play materials are often introduced at this location first before being added to other libraries, so if you’re feeling adventurous, come check out this hidden gem.
Alicia Ashman also has an ongoing drop-in art/maker corner with interesting art supplies always available in our children’s area. Programs for kids at Alicia Ashman Library include a multi-age storytime once a week.
See what's happening at Alicia Ashman Library!
Perfect for: Kids with an active imagination and boundless curiosity.
You might also enjoy the children’s areas at Pinney and Goodman South Madison Libraries.
Central Library is located in the heart of downtown Madison at 201 W. Mifflin St. just off of Capitol Square. The children's area at Central Library is the largest play space of all of our library locations, with an entire floor dedicated to books, comfy chairs, cozy and colorful nooks, and lots of play materials for all ages.
At Central Library, your kids will find Imagination Playground Blocks (the big blue blocks), a massive block building space and an updated train table as well as a rotating collection of other intriguing play materials. Central Library is also home to many great programs like our Multi-age Storytimes and our recurring Lego Club.
See what's happening at Central Library!
Perfect for: pretty much everyone!
You might also enjoy the children’s areas at Pinney and Sequoya Libraries.
Goodman South Madison Library
Located on Madison's near south side, Goodman South Madison Library (2222 S. Park St) is part of Park Street's Villager Mall, with the Urban League of Greater Madison as our next door neighbor. The children’s area at Goodman South Madison Library is an inviting, light-filled space. There are large foam blocks to build with, a soft rug for babies to crawl on, an awesome light table where kids can play with the city’s largest collection of Magnatiles as well as other play materials. Goodman South Madison has a cozy reading nook with an amazing starry canopy and a collection of squishy cushions. You can also stretch your artistic muscles in their ongoing open-ended art space.
Programs at Goodman South Madison Library include activities for both kids and teens, including bilingual offerings, movies, an anime club and more.
See what's happening at Goodman South Madison Library!
Perfect for: Curious and creative kids who also need a cozy spot or space to crawl
You might also enjoy the children’s areas at Central and Alicia Ashman Libraries.
Hawthorne Library is located off a bustling street at 2707 E. Washington Ave on Madison's northeast side. Over the years, the Hawthorne Library has been home to a whole series of dollhouses, each one loved to bits. We’ve upgraded and now have a dollhouse that can be reconfigured in countless different ways (a tall skinny house? A whole row of small houses? A house with lots of turrets?) with funky bits of wood that can be any furnishings your child can dream up.
Hawthorne was also the first library to create a dedicated, ongoing open-ended art space. Makers of all ages are welcome to explore the possibilities with paper, colorful tape, a variety of hole punches and more. What will you create today?
Programs at Hawthorne Library include a wide variety of activities including Arts in the Alley, gardening programs, beading workshops and more.
See what's happening at Hawthorne Library!
Perfect for: Kids who love playing with dolls, creating art, or getting inventive with making materials
You might also enjoy the children’s areas at Meadowridge and Alicia Ashman Libraries.
Lakeview Library is located at 2845 N. Sherman Ave, right next to Willy St. Co-op and just steps away from Warner Park on Madison's northwest side. Lakeview Library is home to a tiny but mighty, light-filled children’s area. With a rotating collection that might include large wooden vehicles or a dollhouse or building blocks of all kinds, there’s always something fun to do at Lakeview!
Although their play space is on the smaller side, Lakeview has some great ongoing programs for kids and teens, including cooking classes, a baby play date, Minecraft club and much more.
See what's happening at Lakeview Library!
Perfect for: Kids who like to fill, dump, stack and roll.
You might also enjoy the children’s spaces at Monroe Street and Sequoya Libraries.
Over on the southwest side of Madison, Wisconsin you'll find Meadowridge Library (5726 Raymond Rd), right across the street from Meadowood Park and next door to the Meadowood Neighborhood Center. With its connection to the Meadowridge kitchen, kitchen play is very popular in this children’s area. We’ve updated their kitchen accessories and made them more open-ended. Meadowridge Library is also the first library to have a large “rainbow rocker.” This plaything can be used in SO many different ways and is great for imaginative play and sensory regulation.
Programs at Meadowridge Library include a regular Tinkering Tuesday event for kids, maker activities for teens, an anime club and storytimes.
See what's happening at Meadowridge Library!
Perfect for: Kids who like to play with their food, tinker and make, and rock and roll.
You might also enjoy the children’s area at Hawthorne and Lakeview Libraries.
Monroe Street Library
Monroe Street Library (1705 Monroe St) is our smallest library with a subsequently small children's area. This library is beloved by the people who live in the bustling Monroe Street neighborhood, which is just steps from the UW-Madison football stadium, down the street from the Monroe Street Arts Center, and a few blocks away from Henry Villas Zoo. Although Monroe Street is home to our smallest children’s area, the recent addition of a board book shelf with a canopy has been a big hit! What will you pretend that it is? This library location also has a rotating collection of smaller toys like Squigz, wooden building blocks & puzzles.
Programs at Monroe Street Library include a regular storytime for kids 5 and under, as well as making activities on Saturdays.
See what's happening at Monroe Street Library!
Perfect for: Kids who enjoy cozy, quiet spaces
You might also enjoy the children’s area at Hawthorne and Alicia Ashman Libraries.
Pinney Library is one of our newest libraries, which opened on the southeast side of Madison, Wisconsin in 2020. The library, located at 516 Cottage Grove Rd, is near Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the East YMCA and La Follette High School. The Pinney PlayLab is our flagship play space. There's lots of room to stretch your imagination as you build with large soft “logs” and other large soft block shapes. There’s a large collection of magnetic wooden Tegu blocks, Magnatiles and more for kiddos who like to build on a slightly smaller scale. The PlayLab also has some cozy nooks for reading together and for babies to play in, as well as a separate “PlayLab Plus” space for older kids to engage with more complex play materials and art supplies. One other unique feature of the Pinney PlayLab is an enclosed outdoor play patio. Open throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall, this offers a safe, outdoor space for your kids to let off some steam!
Programs at Pinney Library include a regularly occurring LEGO Club, Minecraft Club, Graphic Novel Book Club, Teen Writing Club and more! Pinney also offers regular programming for children ages 5 & under, including Storytimes (Multiage, Bilingual & Baby), the Pinney Playdate, Art for Little Ones, and a variety of movement/music/dance-based programming for little ones.
See what's happening at Pinney Library!
Perfect for: Kids who want to move their whole bodies and exercise their creativity
You might also enjoy the children’s areas at Central and Sequoya Libraries. If you’re looking for similarly open-ended play opportunities in a somewhat quieter space, try the Alicia Ashman Library.
Sequoya Library is located on the West side of Madison (4340 Tokay Blvd) and is nestled into a busy shopping center near the Nakoma and Midvale Heights neighborhoods. The Sequoya Library’s train table has long been a popular destination for families and now we’ve updated it with a chalkboard surface that gives kids a chance to design their own backdrop as well as new tracks and new trains. There are several different play spaces at Sequoya which allows for different types of play to happen at the same time. In addition to the train table area, there is also a large open play space with Imagination Playground equipment (the “big blue blocks”) and Stapelsteins that encourage some epic building projects!
Sequoya Library is home to many wonderful programs for kids, including a kids chess club, storytimes for various ages, and more.
See what's happening at Sequoya Library!
Perfect for: Kids who like to play with small vehicles and big blue blocks.
You might also enjoy the children’s areas at Central and Pinney Libraries.
Play from Anywhere
There are many ways to play both inside and outside the library. Below are a few additional resources for kids and families to enjoy from Madison Public Library.
Enjoy in the Library:
We Read: We Read is our year-round, all ages celebration of reading. Check the webpage for upcoming We Read programs, activities and materials available from your neighborhood library. These may include maker kits, We Read Baby Song Books, special clubs, and more. LEARN MORE
Neurodivergent Accommodation Kits: Our newly developed Neurodivergent Accommodation Kits were made with the intent of increasing accessibility for people across the neurodiversity spectrum and to help all feel comfortable in our library environments. We hope these tools and toys will aid with sensory or communication needs for you and your family while in the library. These kits are geared towards kids and can be used in our newly updated play spaces at any time - simply ask library staff at the reference desk to pick one up!
Baby Play Kits: Libraries can help parents with infants juggle using the computer and watching their kids. We already had some baby toys for just this purpose, but now we have Baby Play Kits that parents can grab from any of our libraries to help entertain their babies while they work! These toys are great for use while baby hangs out in a car seat or stroller. Ask about them at your library.
Enjoy from Home:
Online Storytimes: Browse a digital catalog of stories and fun that can be enjoyed anytime from home. These videos include storytime snippets, which are just 10 minutes or less, bilingual and Spanish storytimes, and some books told through rap and song with Mr. Alexis. TIME TO READ
Kanopy Kids: Kanopy is a video streaming service available for FREE with your Madison Public Library card. Kanopy Kids is a carefully curated collection of the best children’s programming available today. Kids' selections are curated to support early literacy, STEM education, and even foreign language learning. Using favorite children’s characters from Sesame Street, PBS Kids, Weston Woods, and more, the collection of kids films inspire empathy, critical thinking, and self-esteem in young viewers. TRY KANOPY KIDS
eBooks and Audiobooks: Check out eBooks or listen to Audiobooks for free from home using the Libby App to access the Wisconsin Digital Library. There are thousands of titles in Wisconsin’s Digital Library, including books, magazines and more for kids. LEARN MORE
Art with Amy: Check out our Art with Amy webpage, which includes supply lists and videos of local artist Amy making things like Treasure Maps, Flipbooks, and mini books. You can gather the supplies yourself and then follow along to do your own craft at home! GET CRAFTING
Cooking with Chef Lily: Learn healthy cooking tips and tricks at home with our online videos featuring Chef Lily, "The Kids Chef". She'll show you how to make Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins, Quesadillas, Pepperoni Pizza Zucchini Bites and more. You can download printable ingredient lists and recipes and then follow along as Chef Lily shows you how to put it all together. GET COOKING