Toy libraries have changed the way in which we think about consuming toys. That we can share toys instead of own them. A place where ideas, friendships, suggestions and help is also traded. So why on earth did I stop using one?
The trouble with toys
Once my first child had firmly established herself within our home – and I mean firmly establish herself – toys occupying every available space in our kitchen, living room, bedrooms and bathroom – I started to think of a better way. I was buying brand new, shiny toys only for them to be gathering dust moments later.
Why don’t we share toys at home?
It got me thinking. We all share cars, bikes, homes, offices…even dogs. But when it comes to toys for the home we’re stuck in the old way of doing things.
Children share toys all the time – at playdates, nursery, their childminder’s, play cafes. These toys are used time and time again. They are the most commonly played with toys outside of the home and they’re exciting. A “brand new” set of toys to play with, the child would say. What fun! Yet, they’re not brand new. They’ve been used before.
Second hand toys
Savvy parents, aware that toys can be neglected within just days of being bought, seek alternatives. eBay, facebook groups and hand-me-downs are all great places to trade second hand children’s toys. But it’s toy libraries that have truly introduced the notion that we don’t have to buy toys at all.
Could a toy library be the solution?
A recent trip to Lewisham Toy Library, specifically looking for party hire equipment, was a welcomed find. I could borrow exactly what I wanted and when I no longer needed it, I could send it back – no need to store anything!
I have friends who rave about Charlton Toy Library, who offer Stay & Play sessions so you can try toys out there and then, and meet like-minded companions. Pimlico Toy Library take it a step further and have qualified toy librarians to help you choose the best baby toy or kids toy. And the Toy House in Urmston offer an outreach program visiting children who may not be able to get to the library itself.
Toy libraries and their communities
What all these toy libraries have in common, beyond the concept of sharing is a sense of the wider community. A place where not only toys are shared, but ideas, friendships, suggestions and help is traded. Unlike a second hand sale, where goods are fleetingly sold, members belong to a library. There’s a shared need and a collective voice. A place to share common ground.
So why did I stop using my local toy library?
I loved our local toy library. It was full of hidden treasures and filled me with a deep sense of satisfaction. I loved the concept, the community and I very much wanted to reduce my toy consumption. Buying brand new was not great for my pocket, my tiny house or the environment.
But it wasn’t the easiest location for me to get to, especially once I’d returned to work and I wasn’t always sure which toys they had in stock before I went.
Online toy library to the rescue?
So when I discovered Whirli, my eyes lit up! An online toy library with a catalogue of the latest toys that I could choose from and access at any time. This could work! I immediately registered to join their wait list before they launched last year – and checked their jobs board to see if they were looking to expand their team. They were and voila here I am working for Whirli. Anyway…I digress!
We’re four months into our toy subscription and my eldest daughter is truly starting to understand the value of sharing. She understands that giving back toys means she gets a whole new bunch to play with. And when we tell her we are returning her unused toys so another little girl or boy can play with them she is delighted – proud even. It’s given her a virtual sense of community.
Now you can’t buy that at the supermarket.