Toys that once captured childrens’ attentions are now sitting at the bottom of toy bins across the globe, waiting to be sent to landfill. But luckily for those old, unwanted toys, toy libraries are here to give them a second chance.
In the U.S., there are approximately 400 toy libraries that are filled with both new and used toys for families to borrow and take home. The concept is similar to a traditional library, as it promotes learning, teaches responsibility and encourages social interaction. Toy libraries can also be found globally, in countries like Italy and Australia.
“Play is just as valuable and important as reading, and toy libraries provide children with a place to relax and create their own opportunities to learn and grow,” says Judy Iacuzzi, executive director of the USA Toy Library Association. “Toy libraries also offer a place for families and individuals to donate their gently used toys so that they don’t end up in landfill.”
The nation’s first toy library started in Los Angeles, around the time of the Great Depression, when a store owner noticed that children were absconding with toys because they couldn’t afford to buy them. In an effort to keep local kids from stealing, he decided to transform a garage into a library filled with toys that children could freely borrow and return. The concept eventually expanded into a network of about 60 locations around the city, which provided low-income children with access to quality toys to play with.
Today, some toy libraries are associated with public libraries, others are located within social service centers or childhood development organizations and a few are freestanding nonprofits like the National Lekotek Center, which is a network of 17 nonprofit adaptive toy libraries across the country.
“The National Lekotek Center is a great resource for families who have family members with special needs,” says Iacuzzi. “Most of the nonprofit’s…