Fortson Public Library hosts Stimulating Activity Fair

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

Seven-year-old Isabella Maness of McDonough was ready to get hands dirty.

She and her four-year-old brother, Gavin, were all smiles as they dug into some freshly-made slime at the Fortson Public Library. Isabella said she first discovered her affinity for slime while playing with it at a friend’s birthday party.

Two-year-old Ayden Abiala of Hampton attended the Stimulating Activity Fair last Friday. For more photos from the fair, visit Photo by Jason A. Smith

“It smells funny, and you can, like, mix it up with different things,” said Isabella as she maneuvered the slime with her fingers.

The library hosted the Stimulating Activity Fair Friday for children of all ages. The event was designed as a way to keep kids active and engaged during the summer months, said Molly Kellam, young adult specialist for the Henry County Library System.

“With things like fidget spinners and slime being so popular right now, I thought it was a great time to kind of talk about how everybody enjoys stimulating activities for the senses,” said Kellam. “Things like this are also very popular among the neuro-diverse community -- people with autism or ADHD or in gifted [programs], although you don’t have to be in any of those categories to still enjoy exploring with your senses.”

Kellam noted that the fair provided an environment where kids could feel welcome while learning about services the library offers. It also gave children a chance to use toys including one dubbed a Bite-saber, a chewable pencil-topper made of tooth-safe silicone.

“It’s meant to act as a safe alternative to chewing on objects, which many people can use for different reasons,” she explained. “If you, say, use a feeding tube, you still have the desire to chew, but you can’t eat typical food. So that’s a way of kind of putting that to use.”

The fair also featured weighted vests and blankets, and other items kids can use to relieve stress, as well as books and resources on ways to reduce noise or release energy.

“We all know everybody needs exercise, everybody needs time to play to develop their brains as they’re coming up,” said Kellam. “This is just another way of doing that. A lot of people enjoy hands-on activities when they’re given an opportunity to get involved with them. Sometimes it’s easier to hand somebody a screen. There’s a lot of benefits to the technology that we now have access to, but it also is beneficial to be able to get involved with stuff like this.”

In the case of the aforementioned slime, Kellam said kids can make it their own by doing something as simple as changing a recipe. Doing so, she added, enables them to use skills related to the STEM curriculum, which is an acronym for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

“You have to follow a recipe, so there’s a degree of using some math skills and using some reading skills, and sometimes do a little of that STEM,” she said. “Sometimes you get a recipe that doesn’t quite work. Well, did it not work because you bought the wrong brand of contact solution? Maybe there’s a chemical difference in what you bought. What is the difference between clear glue and white glue, other than one being transparent?”

Parents and guardians in attendance at the fair seemed to have varying reasons for bringing their kids to the event. Natalie Engelman came from her home in Jackson with her three kids – three-year-old Lynex, six-year-old Tallyn and 11-year-old Tyson – to enjoy the Stimulating Activity Fair. Engelman said she wanted to give her kids something to do during the summer.

“It’s been raining all summer,” she said. “So, we’re trying to find things to keep them occupied and busy and involved.”

Karl Abiala of Hampton also brought his two sons – four-year-old Aeneas and two-year-old Ayden – to participate in the fair. Abiala said Aeneas, in particular, is a high-anxiety child who can benefit from having an outlet through the activities provided by the library.

“It’s zero to 100 until nighttime,” said Abiala. “It’s awesome to have an activity fair. There’s not a lot for kids to do around here, so it’s awesome for him to be able to hang out and do activities with everybody.”

Isabella and Gavin Maness’ grandfather, George Hawver of McDonough, said he is grateful for the fair and other summer programs available through the library system.

“It keeps them primed to get ready to go back to school because they interact with all the other kids and they get to participate in different activities,” said Hawver. “They’ve had ventriloquists, puppet shows, all kinds of things at the different libraries. I’ve taken them around to all the libraries to maximize their experience with the different programs.”