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How to Set up a Toy Library

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A toy library is a wonderful resource for any community. This blog post will show you how to set up a toy library in your area. A toy library is a fantastic addition to a community. We parents especially know how quickly kids get tired of toys and once the novelty wears off, they get discarded. Those discarded toys could be loved by other children and re-used over and over. The cool thing is, parents can get their kids new toys to play with on a regular basis, without having to spend money over and over. This way the kids get to play with exciting new toys, there is less wastage from toys being thrown away and sent to landfill and the kids get kept entertained. 

You will need some volunteer parents who can time share a couple of hours a week or so or else you yourself would need to commit to spending a couple of hours minimum per week there. Most parents will be happy to bring along their child/children who can play with the toys while they hold the fort. You could even have a seperate play area where you can watch the kids as you work. 

The other main thing is finding a venue, perhaps a community building with a room large enough to store the toys. Ask around at the school, community hall, put a notice on the notice board and have other parents ask around too. The more people you have on board, the better. If there is enough interest in it, there will be more chance of finding the right venue.

You can consider setting up as a non-profit community service, whereby you could reach out and ask for funding or else just set it up as a community or personal venture. You would need to research the ins and outs of that depending on your location and the rules involved in setting up whichever business you decide to go with. If you do go with the non-profit then there will be a difference in the way money is handled etc.

You need to get in touch with your community and ask for toy donations and or go online or to markets and source cheap toys that are suitable and hardwearing. Most people have toys their kids have grown out of and you will be surprised at the amount of old toys that people are looking to get rid of. Check out your local charity shops and ask them to call you if any good toys get donated.

If you have a local newspaper/newsletter or even a flyer you can use to spread the word about looking for volunteers/venue or toys then by all means use it. If not, you can always make your own flyer to put in letter boxes or call around door to door and chatting to locals. You could arrange with the local schools for parents to be informed by letter or through the school board and see if anyone wants to be involved that way.

Once you have the venue and volunteers, you then need to make arrangements for book keeping. Purchase a ledger book and decide on a monthly/yearly fee for the use of the library. It is probably good to have a minimum payment of 20 cash for the initial sign-up. That way you are covering the cost of a couple of toys, if the person never returns them. It is unlikely people will not return the toys as they will most likely want to come back and swap the toys again but it is just in case.

community volunteers brainstorming

Make a section in your log book for sign-ups and also create a filing system where you can alphabetically file the persons name in a section. In that section you can make a note of the toys they have borrowed, the date and then when they return them you can strike off the toys and make changes. Depending on the number of people you are dealing with, a standard alphabetical card system should do to start with.

Have a money box where you keep the cash and keep it somewhere safe. This money can be used for any expenses that occur such as replacing damaged toys or fixing them, buying cleaning products, buying new toys and so on. Obviously if it is a non-profit organisation you will need to check the rules involved with money handling. Either way you will need to keep a separate ledger for money in and out.

Once that has been set up and organised, you will need to gather plenty of toys so that when people loan the toys out, you have some leftover at all times. This may mean limiting each person to 2 or 3 toys at a time. You need to decide whether you will have a set time limit for returning the toys. Similar to a book library, you could give a month or whatever seems reasonable. Allow some leeway as people tend to forget and are busy so try not to have to call people and chase it up but set a time limit so they have an idea.

You could of course, have a book section too but it is best to have those set up into different age groups since the younger ones may end up ripping pages etc. You could use a stamp/writing system same as the book library does by adding a little sleeve to the back. Then stamping the card with a date or writing the date and signing your initials or something along those lines when they are loaned out. Then just write the details into your ledger book and file them.

a child playing with a toy camera

When you have enough toys gathered, you will need to mark them well and also code or number them for your inventory. This will involve setting up a separate ledger or folder with a numbered/coded system to identify each toy. You will need permanent markers, something to carve the toy library name on (such as a Stanley knife or craft knife for the larger more expensive items). This is just in case people forget that they belong to the toy library and to be able to identify the toys belonging to the toy library also in case they get lost.

Any toys with small pieces will have to be kept in bags so that they all get kept together and not end up all over the place and mixed up. Get some heavy duty see-through plastic drawstring bags if you can and put large stickers on those bags with the name and code or number associated with that toy/puzzle/whatever. This is handy for the parents who loan the toys too as they can keep the bag somewhere safe while they have the toy on loan and pop it back in the bag afterwards when returning. You should mark on the sticker how many pieces were included. This way, there will be no confusion and if a piece gets lost, you will know or be informed, then you can correct it for the next person. It also helps people know how many pieces need to be found and count them before returning to make sure.

Once you have marked the toy with a permanent marker or carving or both, then make a note of that code/number in your ledger and write the description of that toy beside it. Once you have done this with every toy, you can make arrangements to have the toys with small pieces or for the older age groups to be kept up higher than the level of the toys for the younger/youngest childrens toys.

You could have a shelving system, hooks to hang the bags off or just a seperate area that is not accessible for small children or babies. This is so there are no choking hazards or confusion over what age groups are the toys for. You could consider colour coding the toys markings if it makes that easier. Otherwise just make a note of the age groups for each toy. You can make a map and designate spots for the different age groups/toys or just whatever works for you to know where things are etc.

Contact your local creche, play centre, school and anywhere you can help get the word out by informing parents and neighbouring visitors in the surrounding areas. Ask around the local businesses if you can put up a sign or leave some leaflets if there are families frequenting those places. Write the details on such as the days you are operating and the hours as well as the initial charge for joining. A phone number and or an email for contacting.

If you want you could set up a free website online through WordPress or any other free website building site. You can add on all the details there. It would be a good idea to ask if anyone has any old toys they no longer use and wish to donate at the same time. You could also mention if anyone is interested in being a part of the group of volunteers and leave the email for contacting.

Calendar and files for business

You could contact local information centres, local area blogs and online local guides and ask them to add the toy library to their list of resources and community information. If there are any online forums discussing things to do with children in the area you could drop your link or contact details there also.

If there are classified ads in any free publications based around your area or Facebook groups for area info you could post on there about the toy library and also mention if anyone wants to donate toys then leave the address there or contact details. You would need to make arrangements around the time you will be there or available to meet people dropping things off. Try and mention that the toys need to be in a good state and reason being they get plenty of wear and tear. That way people will be less likely to offload their rubbish! You can always say you can’t accept everything due to storage issues and then you can just accept the better toys.

When new toys arrive they will need to be inspected to make sure there are no safety issues, faults or broken parts etc. They will also need to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The same goes for when items are returned so you will need the cleaning products for that and also a spray water bottle or 2 if you don’t have access to running water.

Ideally you would have an area where a car can park to make it easier for people to take and return larger items. At least somewhere nearby perhaps. You should leave a notice on the main entrance for people to know when they can drop things back and the contact details in case of any problems. You don’t want people randomly leaving stuff back on the door step.

It might be a good idea to have a sign on the footpath or else a large sign at the front of the building so that people can find you when walking past. Eventually people will come to know the place but starting out it is best to make the toy library known to passersby. 

Set up a schedule, whether it is just you or other parents and volunteers in the area. You can work this around your own commitments and the commitments of those involved. Decide which days and times suit everyone and stick to it. Make a roster if you are time-sharing the hours as there are bound to be certain days people or you yourself need off and have to arrange cover for. Try to do it a month in advance at least or if possible just take it in turns one after the other. Find whatever works for you and share the workload.

planning with a planner

Set up a training manual for anyone new who starts working and that way you won’t forget what they need to know and they can always refer to it as a guide in case they forget anything. If you have any daily tasks you can add them in there and you can leave a notebook for any jobs that need doing such as toys that need cleaning or new inventory needing to be added etc.

Check your emails when you can and reply to any queries or emails. Don’t forget to mention the rules to people prior to them choosing the items, such as the initial cash payment, return times and any info they need. If you are worried about forgetting any details just have some info pages handy with all the necessary details on there that you can hand the new customer for their own reference.

If you don’t have a computer then you can always just give a mobile phone number instead of an email for contacting. Also, if you don’t want to pay for setting up a phone line, then just get a SIM card with a separate mobile number and set up an old mobile phone to use for the toy library. You can leave it with whoever is on duty that way. Remember to check the voicemail and texts regularly.

Name your toy library The Toy Library or similar unless that name is already taken, but make it something that indicates exactly what it is, such as the name of your area ie. Greenhill Toy Library or Toy Lending Facility. That way people know automatically what they are looking at and when searching for such a thing, you will be easily located.

A toy library is a brilliant way to help your community and it is a win-win for those involved. It is especially useful for families in need who may be experiencing financial difficulty or are unable to afford the expense of new toys. Any excess toys or ones there are not enough storage for can be donated to those families and everyone involved will be giving back to the community. It helps parents to socialise and even just to get out of the house for a few hours which can be hard with small children.

Are you interested in setting up a toy library or know a community that can benefit from one? Save this guide for yourself or send it to someone who may benefit! 

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A toy library is a wonderful resource for any community. This blog post will show you how to set up a toy library. Here is your step by step guide to start!

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How to Set up a Toy Library
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How to Set up a Toy Library
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Summary
How to Set up a Toy Library
Article Name
How to Set up a Toy Library
Description
A toy library is a wonderful resource for any community. This blog post will show you how to set up a toy library. Here is your step by step guide to start!
Author
Publisher Name
Blog News Weekly
Publisher Logo
Get post alerts :
RSS
FACEBOOK
FACEBOOK
PINTEREST
PINTEREST
INSTAGRAM

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