|This is a guest post by Catherine Way. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.
What is a toy library?
Toy libraries work just like a book library, except that the items to be borrowed are toys, puzzles and games. Our toy library has toys for children from 0 to around 8 years of age.
At our toy library we pay a yearly fee and can then borrow 4 items for 4 weeks. We can borrow 1 large item (like bikes, rocking horses or a play kitchen) and 3 smaller items. There may be fines for items that are broken or returned with pieces missing.
Membership conditions – like costs and the number of toys you can borrow – vary from library to library.
How the toy library benefits my family?
Using a toy library allows us to
* access a larger variety of toys than we would ever be able to have at home – for example a wide range of different puzzles and board games
* access large toys (play kitchens, ride-in cars, rocking horses, large sports equipment and so on) that we can’t afford to buy or don’t have space to store
* try out toys before we buy them, so that we can be sure that the toys we buy will be used over and over
* find developmentally appropriate toys to challenge my children’s skills (And toy library staff are knowledgeable and able to recommend appropriate toys).
Other benefits of toy libraries
Toy libraries also often serve additional important community benefits and our fees contribute to these activities. For example,
* a meeting and play space for parents and children
* parents’ groups
* helping families to understand the importance of play in child development
* toys for children with special needs (which are often less readily available and more expensive)
* mobile toy libraries for people living in remote areas
What about the cleanliness and condition of toys that are borrowed again and again?
You might worry, especially with young children who still put things in their mouth, about the cleanliness of the toys. Toy libraries ask that you return the toy in the condition that you would like to borrow it. This means clean, unbroken, with no missing pieces and with batteries.
The advice my toy library gives for cleaning toys is to wipe the toys over with warm soapy water (don’t immerse toys with batteries). Use a nailbrush or toothbrush to clean in small nooks and crannies. Allow to dry in the sun.
Since I have a young toddler I usually also clean toys myself before letting my children have full access to them. And I disinfect any toys that I think are especially likely to end up in my child’s mouth.
The toys we borrow are usually in good condition. On the odd occasion that we borrow a toy that doesn’t work, I usually find it is a great teachable moment for my sons about caring for possessions.
Using a toy library has been a great experience for my family. It saves us money and help to keep toy clutter under control in our house. And taking my sons to choose toys has given me a great insight into what they are interested in and exposed them to a range of new toy experiences. If there is a toy library near you, I highly recommend that you go and check it out.
Catherine is a science educator and mother to 2 boys and loves to learn everything about anything. You can read about
play and learning at her place on Adventures With Kids.