A toy library provides resources for play, trained staff and dedicated space. Play, toys and games are at the centre of activities.
A toy library gives members the opportunity for shared play and/or the loan of toys.
A toy library can be operated by individuals, charitable organizations, local, regional or national governments or any other such agency or group. Toy libraries that are run by charities or government institutions mostly offer a free service or there may be a nominal charge. Those run by individuals may charge a fee.
Members of toy libraries can be children, parents, grandparents, child-care providers, educators and/or school children, hospital staff and/or patients, adults, the elderly or anyone interested in toys, games and play.
Toy libraries, as often as possible, serve as a community resource, offering information, guidance and support to members in addition to making playthings available for play or loan. Toy libraries generally serve people without regard to language, national origin, race, age, sex, ability or religion. In some instances, the toy library may have been developed to serve a specific group e.g. children from 1 – 4 years, children in hospitals with serious illnesses, youth or adults with a disability, disadvantaged children etc.
There are a number of ways in which toy libraries operate:
- Play sessions – Members come to play at the toy library premises.
- Loan service – Toys are loaned to members from the toy library premises. They
borrow them for an agreed upon time e.g. 2 weeks or a month.
Some toy libraries offer both play sessions and a loan service.
- Mobile service – Toys are taken to various destinations. Mobile toy libraries may offer either play sessions, borrowing of toys or both
The two main focuses of a toy library service are generally recreation and education.
The focus is on the fun and joy of playing. Social interaction is an important benefit. The learning of skills is a secondary benefit. In the case of children or adults that are severely handicapped, appropriate playthings lead to an improved quality of life.
Click on the link for a website that focuses more on the recreational benefits of a toy library.
The focus is on the development of skills and knowledge through the medium of playing with toys and games. The choice of toys is all important. After that, the children choose freely what they want to play with. Playthings at an easier level of difficulty build confidence as weaker skill areas improve. This approach promotes inclusion. Social interaction is also a benefit.
Click on the link for a website that focuses on the educational benefits of a toy library.
- The role of the toy librarian is sometimes as a playmate and at other times as a play facilitator.
- The focus is to create a safe environment for play where free choice is encouraged.
- The toy librarian creates an environment where play will flourish. This may mean becoming a playmate, showing a child how to play a game or offering a child an easier toy when the current toy is too difficult.
Different countries have different needs and aims of the toy libraries will depend on the needs of the communities served.
Some of the benefits of toy libraries:
- Interactive play between parent and child helps to strengthen the parent-child relationship.
- Children have a safe place to meet and socialize with other children.
- A child’s self confidence increases with each toy enjoyed and mastered.
- Toy librarians ensure that children experience very positive adult-child interaction, something which is often lacking in families due to the stresses of modern life.
- Children learn important social skills like sharing and turn-taking.
- Resilience is strengthened as children learn to accept losing a game and having to make compromises in group play.
- Educational stimulation with special focus on foundation skills for literacy, mathematics and scientific thinking for young children whose families are living in poverty.
- Early intervention with graded toys for children with special needs.
Some of the things that need to be taken into account when planning a toy library are the aims of the toy library, the community, initial number of members etc.
Safe Toys for kids, Australia
- CIELO – International Association based in France that starts toy libraries in impoverished areas
- View list of CIELO toy libraries in Africa…
- You Tube Video about Play in Hospitals – submitted by Helena Bergstrom, Sweden
- Response to query about databases for Toy Library Administration – Ann-Marie McMillan, UK
PHOTO GALLERY – TOY LIBRARIES AROUND THE WORLD
Send your toy library’s photo too – we are waiting for it!