Want to save hundreds if not thousands of dollars? Want to save space in your home? Want to save the environment? Want to have less stress and happy children? Want to teach your children awesome values? Joining a toy library will do all these things and more!
Children get bored. It’s as simple as that. Until now I’ve cycled through what few toys Everett had so he wouldn’t get sick of them (in other words, only having a few of his toys out at a time and then replacing them every week or two with his other toys). But lately I’ve been watching him get sick of his current toys and searching for more stimulating things and then once he’s figured out what he can do with the toy (or random object) he moves on. I’ve also watched him steer towards certain toys at playgroup and I could see that it was time to upgrade some of his toys. But we didn’t want to buy a big pile of toys that he could get sick of or grow out of in only a few months, even though I already tend to buy most things secondhand (Plus I’m on a challenge to limit (or cut) my child spending, you can read about that here). We also don’t have the space to store so many toys and the idea of buying all that plastic sent my environmentally conscious mind into a spin. This is when the toy library came into our lives. Kids will generally always have a few of their own toys (whether it be presents or hand-me-downs) but a toy library is a great way to supplement your existing collection.
What is a toy library?
A toy library, generally supported by the local council or shire, is similar to a book library – you borrow toys and return them but for a small annual fee. They usually cost between $50 to $100 per year which is extremely affordable when you think of all the toys you won’t have to purchase. They are generally aimed at pre-school children (6 months to 6 years old) but may differ between libraries. The toy range available will also vary from each library, but most have baby toys, puzzles, games, musical instruments, electronic games, CD’s and DVD’s, puppets, costumes, water and sand toys, ride on toys, bikes, imaginative play (toy kitchens, prams, doll cots etc), trucks, blocks, electronic games, big outdoor toys like slides and see-saws and much more. There is usually no restriction on what particular toys you can borrow either – you can borrow four bikes if you wanted to which is great for young interstate visitors and the like! Each library is different but most offer extra toy hire for a minimal fee which is great for parties and mothers groups. As most libraries are not-for-profit volunteer run organisations, as a member it is likely you will be expected to go on a roster to work at the toy library – though spending a few hours with your child at a toy library where they can roam free and play with all the visiting children is by no means a hard morning’s work!
So if I haven’t convinced you already, let me tell you some specific benefits of joining a toy library.
Well I think this one is obvious right? This isn’t about being cheap (though a toy library is an especially brilliant way to entertain kids on a tight budget) it’s about unnecessary spending. You just have to browse around a toy store to see how many toys are aimed at different age levels, skills, and even specific likes (i.e. dinosaurs vs trucks). You could go broke trying to satisfy each interest or skill! My toy library membership costs $60 a year, which equates to $1.15 a week. This membership allows me to borrow four toys every three weeks. You don’t have to be a genius to understand the value in that.
Save the environment
I don’t have the exact statistics, but it’s easy to comprehend how many toys are being saved from landfill by simply sharing them. I’ve noticed lots of large plastic toys sitting on the verge for the council garbage collection lately, toys that were likely left outside to deteriorate and fade because their children only used them intermittently. Whilst I try to buy mainly wooden toys for Everett so they last (forever?) there is sometimes no avoiding plastic toys.
I had a chat with Luana, the President of the Carlisle/Victoria Park Toy Library in Perth (my new library), and she told me that there are some plastic toys that they have had for a long time and have really lasted the distance. They also try to only buy new toys that will last and will try to fix broken toys if possible. Even when a toy is broken (for example the musical sounds of an otherwise perfectly good toy) if the toy still has educational or imaginative play qualities they will keep it. Faults and missing pieces are simply registered on the specialised toy library catalogue system (thankfully computerised!).
Teach your children awesome values
By using a toy library we can teach our children (and ourselves) some amazing lifelong values. Firstly, how to consume less which in turn may make them less influenced by the marketing tactics of toy companies. They can learn the value of sharing and less possessive ownership behaviour. They can also learn how to appreciate things that are pre-loved or secondhand. I’m a firm believer that children are overwhelmed with too many toys, so using a toy library is a great way to limit their access. Aren’t these all great qualities to impart on our children from the beginning!
There is also a real sense of community, with as many as 100 families registered at our library (with multiple children). Mums and children will get to know each other on regular visits and when they work on the roster. Isn’t it great that children will learn how to socialise and volunteer at such a young age?
Better yet, a toy library means no-one is disadvantaged by financial or social constraints. Your child can have access to appropriate toys for their age and skill level. Most toys are aimed to cultivate developmental milestones and no child should be disadvantaged when it comes to learning!
The best thing about a toy library is you can let your child browse around and choose whatever they want! No scary price tags or tantrums, the children are free to choose without our influences (too expensive, not value for money, beyond their age group, afraid they might get sick of it quickly etc). And by the time your children get bored with it you can swap it for something new. Blissful!
Above are some pictures from my toy library, the Carlisle Victoria Park Toy Library. Considering there are up to 100 parents who have toys out on loan, it’s amazing to consider how many toys they have when you look at this packed storage space!
I would suggest joining the library as soon as your child is six months old (so long as your library caters to babies) it’s a great way to focus on different stages of their development without breaking the bank. The membership fees would also be an awesome gift from a friend or family member for the child, as it is literally the gift that keeps on giving!
I’ve only been to the library once so far but I can already see that we’ll be regular members for years to come. I honestly can’t think of a reason why any parent wouldn’t join a toy library. Can you?
If you would like to read some facinating articles on toy libraries and their benefits and social impact you should check out these articles:
- An article relating regarding Marketing Professor, Julie Ozanne’s, study on the impact on children of parents’ support and use of toy libraries. A report on the study can be read here.
- An article in The Age about a reliance on toys to reward children could be damaging to their development.
- An article on why fewer toys will benefit your child