RIVER FALLS — The River Falls Public Library hosted a 20-day children’s exhibit in the lower level gallery with activities for kids to try last October. Event and gallery coordinator Cole Zrostlik said the exhibit drew many compliments, and an average of 100 people came each day the exhibit was at the library.

That exhibit gave Zrostlik the idea for the Big Fun Lab.

“There's a big need for winter activities for kids,” Zrostlik said, “and I think that this will end up being for parents. too.”

The Big Fun Lab will be four or five stations around the lower level gallery, each of which contains activities for children from birth to middle school age, all accompanied by a parent or caregiver.

For example, one station will be an “imagination playground” with large foam building blocks similar to the blocks kids often play with, but on a much larger scale.

The other stations will also be science, technology, engineering and math-based activities that work on small motor skills. Parents will be able to interact with their kids as they’re trying out activities.

“I think encouraging parental engagement in addition to parents socializing with their peers is important,” Library Director Tanya Misselt said. “Children learn more from their parents than they will anybody else, until they get to be school age, so that interaction is just so developmentally critical.”

In addition to building parent-child interactions, the Big Fun Lab will allow parents to socialize with each other, especially in winter when there aren’t as many children’s activities as there are in summer.

“Hopefully we’re filling a need with this project,” Zrostlik said. She envisions that the Big Fun Lab Will help kids be ready to read and ready to learn.

Misselt said the Big Fun Lab the should help kids social and emotional development.

Big Idea grant

The Big Fun Lab is made possible by a grant from the River Falls Community Foundation. The library is this year’s winner of the Community Foundation’s Big Idea grant.

Zrostlik and Misselt said they were grateful to the community foundation.

“The long-term success of the program will depend on donations,” Misselt said. She said she would like to encourage people to donate to the library foundation.