With a variety of resources aimed at children's different developmental stages, toy libraries offer lots of fun at little cost, writes Anlina Jones.
Play is nature's way of making learning fun for children, so it follows that toys are the tools of the trade. But which toys are right, and how do you keep up with children's rapid rates of development and forever-changing interests? Quality toys are expensive, and children quickly become bored with them once their play value has been exhausted. Perhaps it's time to join a toy library.
Parents and carers can borrow a variety of educational toys, puzzles and games from toy libraries for a low annual fee. By regularly providing new play materials borrowed from the library, parents can save money while still aiding their children's development.
Toy-library staff and volunteers provide advice on the best toys for children at different stages of development. Resources include ride-on toys, large role-play sets such as kitchens and workbenches, costumes, and sport and construction toys. Many of these are large and difficult to store at home, and not everybody wants a large, brightly coloured kitchen permanently in their lounge room. Instead, you can return it to the library after a week or two of play and choose something new. Items such as board games and puzzles also encourage family involvement.
It's been fascinating watching my children play with a variety of toys throughout their development. When they were babies they enjoyed being challenged by 'posting' toys and shape sorters. They then moved on to wooden puzzles and walkers, followed by play sets such as farms, doll houses and kitchens. My toy library also had a range of scooters and bikes, which were great for promoting outdoor activity.
Toy-library items are selected for their play value and durability, and include good-quality wooden toys. Toys are provided with information such as age appropriateness and safety-warning labels, and are required to be cleaned before they are returned. Advice is provided on ways to do this.
Many toy libraries also loan party packs, including larger toys that stimulate group play, such as climbing gyms, ball pits, roller-coasters, bubble machines and sometimes even bouncing castles. Some libraries also have child-sized trestle tables and chairs.
A toy-library membership can certainly help families save money – many parents borrow more than $1500 worth of toys each year for a low annual fee. The environment also benefits, with less landfill that includes discarded toys. Children enjoy the increased variety and quality of play, while parents benefit from having children who are busy, happy and stimulated.
To find your nearest toy library, visit www.toylibraries.org.au or consult your local-council services directory.
Anlina Jones is president of Toy Libraries Australia.