In order to live more sustainably we need to change our habits. Sharing and reusing what we have is core to this and toy libraries enable us to do this more easily for our children's toys.
Toy libraries are such an amazing resource. They support a wide range of types of play integral to child development and they make accessing toys both affordable and greener. Toy libraries introduce children to the share economy at an early age, a concept vital to supporting sustainable living.
We spoke to Toy Libraries Australia to better understand how toy libraries work and their role in helping us to better share resources.
What is a toy library?
A toy library works in a similar way to any other library; you can borrow something you’re interested in and then swap for something new.
It enables parents and caregivers to access a wide range of quality toys and play equipment for a fraction of the cost of always buying new.
The toys are designed to support children’s skill development and imagination. Anything from infant skills such as cause and effect, to developing gross and fine motor skills through toys such as balance bikes, slides, balance boards, and puzzles games, sorting and posting. There are also toys for developing imaginative and creative play.
Each toy library differs, but as a rule of thumb most aim to cater for babies to 6-year-olds. But do check with your local library as some have great games, coding and strategy toys for kids up to 10.
Benefits of a toy library
There are many benefits to joining a toy library and it’s a great opportunity to try something new!
1. Access a large variety of toys
Toy libraries provide the opportunity to borrow from hundreds of quality toys. It makes accessing a wide range of toys more affordable and enables a greater range of play experiences supporting a child’s development.
2. Reduce the clutter of abandoned toys
By borrowing what a child is currently interested in there’s less toys sitting around unplayed with. And bulky toys like bikes, scooters, kitchens, basketball hoops and slides can be borrowed for just when they are needed.
3. Reduce waste and protect our planet’s resources
Toy libraries have a strong environmental benefit. They support one of the core principles of living more sustainably - reuse. By sharing what we have with others we can reduce our carbon footprint and impact on the planet.
Toys are well cared for and maintained so fewer will prematurely end up in landfill. By sharing we reduce our demand for plastic; you will still find plastic toys in a toy library but each will live a full life and avoid potentially hundreds of other purchases.
4. Learning the value of sharing
Using a toy library teaches children about sharing and how to value resources. It encourages us to consider our purchases and what else we might be able to borrow rather than buy. Things don’t have to be new to bring joy.
5. Be part of a community
Toy libraries provide a valuable community hub with the opportunity for caregivers and children to meet others, a bit like a playgroup.
"With such a huge selection of toys we can always find new and exciting games and activities. Our whole family loves visiting the toy library and as a mum and preschool teacher I love being able to access resources for my children that I wouldn't be able to buy just for us. Great value and a significant part of our play-life." -- Toy Library user in Australia
How does it work?
Some toy libraries have their own dedicated spaces, some operated within a local hall, existing library or community hubs. Each will have its own opening days and times.
The staff and volunteers who manage toy libraries are very supportive and can recommend the perfect toy for your child's stage of development.
Most libraries operate an annual membership model - you pay a fee and then can borrow from the library. Membership normally allows for a certain number of toys to be borrowed per occasion. Toys can be borrowed for 2-4 weeks, with extensions possible if needed.
Some toy libraries are members of the Party Kit Network and offer reusable tableware hire for parties. Many also hire toys and play equipment, such as soft play equipment, suitable for parties.
If you’re worried that once hired, a child won’t want to return a borrowed item, perhaps look at it another way. By borrowing first, you can find out which toys really keep the engagement of your child before investing in buying your own or scouring eBay or local Facebook groups for a secondhand one.
How to find your local toy library
Toy Libraries Australia is a nonprofit organisation representing over 280 toy libraries across Australia. They are passionate about promoting the value of play and the role toy libraries can play in the community to support play, education and families.
Setting up a new toy library
Love the toy library concept but there isn’t one near you? Toy Libraries Australia can support you to set up a new toy library and contribute to your community. With their collective experience they can provide encouragement, information and advice.
They offer a wide range of advice including how to select the right venue, picking the right legal structure, how to set up an inventory system and ideas for how to fund the library. They provide members with access to a wholesale toy buying group making quality toys more affordable.
Their experience can help ensure you have all parts in place to run a successful and safe toy library.
Toy Libraries in the UK
Hertford & Watford KIDS HUB Toy Library for disabled children and children with additional needs
Tyne and Wear
Bradford Toy Library for children with special needs
Found another toy library? Please let us know and we will add it to our list!
If you enjoyed this blog post, there's more posts here.