Save money and the planet: join a toy library

4 min read

Supplying kids with toy advertising tells them that they need more toys, and most of them just up end up in landfill. Enter your local toy library.

Every year, 19% of Australian parents throw out more than 15 toys on behalf of each of their children, according to McCrindle Research’s 2008 study, Generation Z, Toys and The Cost of Parenting. However, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with households collectively producing 12.4 million tonnes of rubbish annually (in 2010), it could well be time for a re-think. And that’s why so many families are joining toy libraries.

Just like book libraries – but exclusively for kids – toy libraries let members borrow toys temporarily. One of the earliest was founded in Los Angeles in the 1930s. A big-hearted shopkeeper saw that children, forced into poverty by the Great Depression, were stealing toys, so he set up a library for them. In 1971, Australia scored its first when Noah’s Ark opened in Melbourne.

Fast-forward to 2016 and there are now more than 280 toy libraries all over the nation – from Coober Pedy’s School Community Library to Nhulunbuy Community Toy Library in Arnhem Land.

“I initially joined because my kids’ consumption of toys wasn’t sitting well with me,” said Sharna Ellington, president of the Moorabbin Area Toy Library and office manager of Toy Libraries Australia. “They’d play with something new for a couple of weeks, then lose interest in it. I wanted to reduce my family’s ecological footprint.”

Not only do toy libraries decrease waste, they also give children access to toys they mightn’t otherwise get their hands on. “There’s an emphasis on unusual, expensive, high-quality and educational toys – toys you probably wouldn’t purchase yourself,” said Ms Ellington. Your four-year-old might take home a LEGO City Police Station toy one week and a Cozy Coupe or balance bike the next.

Each library is run independently and voluntarily, so catalogues, size and opening hours vary from town to town. To become a member, all you have to do is pay an annual fee (which vary from library to library). Concessions are often available. Keen to get more involved? Sign up to your local committee.

“I moved from the Northern Suburbs [of Melbourne] to the other side of town,” said Ms Ellington. “Joining the committee helped me start making connections with other people. There’s a real community feeling.”

No toy library in your town? You can always start your own. To get going, you’ll need a low-rent space (chat to your local council), a handful of enthusiastic committee members and some fundraising ideas.

Another way of contributing is by making donations to your local toy library. That doesn’t mean throwing a pile of once-deeply-loved-now-discarded stuffed creatures into a garbage bag. Of more interest are high-quality, robust toys that can handle some rough-and-tumble.

Alternatively, cold, hard cash is always welcome (when isn’t it?) Donate straight to your local library or to Toy Libraries Australia.

Visit this interactive map to find a toy library near you. 

The money you save on toys could be invested towards your family's future. With BT Invest, you can access intelligent technology, tools and reports to help you invest no matter your level of experience or wealth. Find out more.

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