In my role as a professional organiser I work with a lots of families with lots of TOYS. They are often confounded by the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ their kids have and seem slightly bewildered about where it all came from. It’s true – they definitely do accumulate quickly! In our sessions, I help mums, dads and kids separate the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and make decisions about that which they truly value, but also try to gently instil a new mindset. I want people to think more consciously about their consumption of goods, consumerism, and the true ‘needs’ of childhood. It’s oh-so-fleeting, much like their interests can be! Yet the toys and gear don’t just ‘disappear’. In any client session, I want people to think about every THING which comes into their home. When we stand in any shop or find ourselves online considering a purchase, we should ask ourselves (and teach our children to ask themselves):
1) Do I really need this? Do I already have something similar at home?
2) Is it good quality? Will it last so that I can give or sell it to someone else?
3) Should I ‘sleep on it’ and see if I still want it in a few days?
4) Should I consider saving my money to buy a higher-quality or more environmentally-responsible version?
5) What will happen to it if it breaks? Can I fix it? Recycle it? Will it compost? Or will it become landfill?
Those are basic questions for anything you might want to buy. But when it comes to toys and baby gear, I propose one more question:
6) CAN I BORROW IT?
In fact, YES! Borrowing toys and baby gear is absolutely an option, especially with the existence of brilliant places like toy libraries! In a world drowning in STUFF and consumerism, consider where you might save resources by BORROWING.
I’ve been involved with the Charlton Toy Library for two years, both as someone who declutters and donates toys from others, but also in helping THEM to declutter and better organise their toy stock and their workrooms. The concept of a toy library was entirely new to me (I am a recent arrival in the UK) but I think they’re absolutely brilliant, and I wish I’d had such a place at my disposal when my kids were under five. Charlton Toy Library membership is available to families with children under the age of five, and provides opportunities for parents of older children to volunteer, or attend events like pamper evenings and table sales. They also hire out their space for birthday parties or baby showers!
As a mother and as a professional, these are just a FEW reasons I can think of to utilise a borrowing scheme like a toy library.
1) Save money.
Sure, you could run out and buy a new play kitchen and all the bits to go with it for £60+ OR you could invest in a membership at a toy library. As a guide, a six-month membership at the Charlton Toy Library is £15.00 (£7.50 concessions). Once you are a member, you could then hire a lovely play kitchen for two weeks, for between 50p and £2.50! And then come back for something else of course. Serious money-saving…
2) Keep it fresh.
Face it, sometimes even we as parents get a bit bored looking at the same old toys day in and day out. Borrow something new-to-you to enjoy with your child!
3) Try before you buy.
For some reason, my kids had a million mega blocks but only played with them when I dragged them out. If you are unsure if your child will ‘click’ with a certain kind of toy, why not use the Toy Library to test something out? If it turns out that they can’t live without it, then you might consider investing in one of your own. But if it’s just ‘meh’ to them, then you’ve saved money (and clutter!).
4) Reduce your carbon footprint.
There is a LOT of plastic going into toys and their packaging. Plastic does make things less expensive, lighter, and easier to clean, but on the flip side, plastic comes from oil, and NEVER goes away. When you choose not to buy MORE plastic, you vote with your purse. The large toy manufacturers are catching on but we still have a long way to go.
5) Get out and about with your child – stay and play!
The Charlton Toy Library is open during term time three mornings per week on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 9.30 – 12.30. Sessions offer toy borrowing and stay-and-play, which may include singing time, Spanish time, arts and crafts, dental health sessions, road safety sessions, haircuts for kids, etc. It’s a chance to get out of the house (and let’s face it, time can DRAG ON some days if you don’t get out and about!), meet other families, and let the little ones play with a fresh array of toys. Win-win!
6) Membership supports VITAL community outreach
Charlton Toy Library employs a community outreach worker who works with families in need of extra support; including those in refuges or those who may have special medical needs. As a registered charity, the Toy Library does not receive council funding, but relies on grants, donations and fundraising to stay afloat. They are fortunate to be recipients of BBC Children in Need funding which covers the costs of the Outreach Worker post but in order to maintain the services at Charlton House, which supports the outreach worker, they rely on the fundraising endeavours of a small team of tireless volunteers.
Have I convinced you to get involved? Borrowing toys and being a member of a toy library is good for the state of your home, the environment, your budget, your sanity, AND gives you the opportunity to help other families in need. The Charlton Toy Library warmly welcomes new members, and new volunteers. If you would be interested in helping Charlton Toy Library by becoming a volunteer, helping run the weekly sessions, helping with fundraising or have any other services you could offer directly to the toy library please get in touch or just drop in during a play session!
Everything you need to know about Charlton Toy Library can be found here: www.charltontoylibrary.co.uk