Sustainable way to play

Dear Sam,  

I have a 2 year old and I am having trouble keeping up with the demands of her development. It seems like she needs a different type of toy every month–one day she’s crawling and then she’s walking! I’ve heard about toy libraries–what is a toy library and would it be appropriate for our family? 



Dear Becky,

Thank you for your question. Sounds like you are trying to find ways to stimulate her ever-changing development during those first years of life. These are called the “critical years” of development and it IS important to give children the tools/toys they need to gain skills necessary for the rest of their lives. A toy library would be a great resource for your family. The question is, what IS a toy library?

A toy library is much like a book library, except the inventory is toys. Toy libraries are all over the world and come in many different forms. Some operate out of book libraries (because their concept is so similar), some have commercial spaces and some are even mobile and run out of buses! The goals of all libraries are the same. I’m sure there are more, but here are my top 3 goals of toy libraries:

1)  Promote healthy child development. The folks behind toy libraries know kids and know toys. They understand what skills children need to work on and provide toys that are fun and help develop those skills. Toy librarians curate their inventory so the materials are safe for play. They closely monitor recalls and take out toys that break while in circulation. 

2) Save families money. This is a big one and one that most parents already know about – new toys are expensive! You feel good buying a new toy that is great for your one year old, only to find that they quickly lose interest or grow out of it. Toy libraries usually have a monthly or yearly membership cost (some are free). This cost is nominal compared to the cost of the toys you will use during the first 5 years of their life. Unsure of what toy is right for your child? A toy library is a great way to try out many types of toys without having to own them. If it doesn’t work for your kid, come back and get something different!

3) Environmentally friendly option. Joining a toy library is a great way to reduce waste at home. Think of all that packaging/material that comes with the purchase of a new toy. The plastic that nearly cuts your finger off! Families join a toy library because it is an environmentally friendly way to play. Borrowing does not require more resources (plastics, wood, fibers) to be used. Many toy libraries receive donations of second hand toys, so even the toy librarians aren’t buying all new toys. 

It sounds like being a part of a toy library might make sense for your family. You want to provide high quality toys for your child during those first years when they are changing so fast – including the toys they WANT to play with, that can change daily 🙂 It will save your family money and it’s also an Earth-friendly option. I encourage you to check out the local toy library in the Twin Cities – The Minneapolis Toy Library. They have two locations: South Minneapolis and Northeast Minneapolis. They have thousands of toys and are there to help you pick out the right toy for your child. 

Thanks for inquiring, Becky, and have fun playing!