You may regularly attend your local library, but have you heard about toy libraries?
There is often little known about them in the community and in parenting circles. If people do know of them, they aren’t always utilised or used regularly.
They are manned by wonderful, dedicated volunteers who are passionate about seeing families benefit from borrowing a variety of toys. Many council areas offer the service located in the library, although the cost, range, details and opening hours vary slightly.
Here are five reasons you should sign up for a toy library membership:
1. It is affordable. It only costs $35 a year for our local one. This allows you to borrow 3 items per child or infant and unlimited puzzles. Some are a little more or less, and others are free to join! When you consider how much a Fisher Price toy from Target or a lovely wooden one from Europe costs, it makes so much sense to borrow them.
At times I have had something on a wish list to buy, held off and found it at the toy library, and then realised it wasn’t something I wanted to purchase. It might have had too many loose parts, batteries always needed replacing, taken up lots of space, been noisy or simply kept the interest for a short period of time or stage of development. Rather than constantly buying new toys, or even second hand ones, you could buy a few favourites and borrow the rest. You could include this as part of your annual budget or even ask for it as a present idea for your child.
2. It is the ultimate toy rotation. Experts agree that regularly rotating toys at home is one of the best methods around. Children have a limited amount to see in their space and aren’t overwhelmed with options. One item in every cube or basket is there to play with. You can choose one from each category- puzzle, building blocks, duplo or lego, pretending, literacy or numeracy, music focus, etc.
Children make do with what they have, allowing their imagination and creativity to kick in. They rarely get bored with the toys out because they are swapped out for others every week or two. You can choose a few from your collection alongside some from the library. Regularly rotating toys keeps items fresh and kids excited about their play. You can choose items specific to their current interest, schema or stage of development and not have to spend huge amounts of money to do so. You can reborrow favourite toys throughout the year and watch your child delight in discovering it again.
3. The range is incredible. My first few experiences of the toy library was spent trying to convince my toddler to stop driving around in a little car so I barely went past the first lot of shelves. When I finally went kid free one night, I couldn’t believe how much stuff was there.
We can borrow from hundreds of puzzles, dress ups, puppets and sensory play. There are dolls houses, animals, musical instruments and cars. Board games, literacy and numeracy activities. Fine and gross motor, plastic and wooden, imaginative play. There are walkers, activity tables and jumperoos. Big items for parties can be reserved for a small fee like coloured balls, Little Tike cars, basketball rings, wobble boards, even jumpy castles! I have seen a small crate filled with reusable cups and plates. I love wandering the aisles slowly on the evening my local is open, browsing the hundreds of items free to borrow. It excites me about the possibilities of play awaiting my children.
4. You don’t need to own as much. Seriously, if you borrow every week or fortnight, there is no reason to keep as many. This saves money and space in your house. Downsize to keep the favourites.
For example, we had a Tupperware shape sorter in our collection for four years. We didn’t use it that often but I thought it was a useful one to own. One day it hit me- we could donate it, instead opting to borrow a range of shape sorters throughout the year that would stimulate our children’s interest and develop their skills. I realised how many items like this we had that I simply did not need to keep myself.
This has enabled me to get rid of dozens of toys recently and be fussy about the ways that I let into our house.
5. Reduces environmental impact. By utilising our local toy library, we buy less items and send less into landfill. We consume less. Right now, if humans stopped making and purchasing toys, instead relied on borrowing, donating and sharing the ones we have, I’m sure there would be plenty to go around. We just do not need to own it all ourselves. It’s crazy!
If not for the money saving or space saving reasons, please consider your carbon footprint and the impact on the environment when more toys get made. The plastic cost that takes so much to produce and thousands of years to break down in landfill. The trees that fell to produce beautiful wooden toys. The people who often work in terrible conditions factories to make items for children to play with. We can reduce this unnecessary burden on the environment by simply consuming less.
In closing, I wish I had known more about toy libraries when my eldest was a baby. I knew they existed but didn’t think I needed it. I simply didn’t know how much they stocked, the range for parties outdoor equipment, and for engaging older children too.
I now go there every week or two, sometimes with a baby, toddler and preschooler in tow, other times for some rare alone time to browse and borrow. Ours is open late one day a week and for this I am so grateful. I’m still in awe of how many items there are on the shelves. There is almost no reason to go out and buy toys or games when we have such wonderful resources at our fingertips.
If you haven’t signed up to become a member, I strongly encourage you to check it out! It has enabled us to save money, reduce our environmental impact and owning less stuff all at once. The more of us who can sign up, the better resourced these libraries can become.
Memberships can be purchased for a family member as a gift idea, especially when you’re running out of ideas. Grandparents can benefit from signing up too, rather than feeling pressure to own and store lots of toys themselves.
It has been a game changer for our family, and hope it can be for yours too.