Father and daughter playing at home

Making Play Time Sustainable

Millions of plastic toys get binned simply because kids lose interest in them. It’s hard not to give in to our kids’ demands, but rather than buying new, why not try a toy library? 

Toy libraries can be found all over the UK. You can donate and hire a range of toys for a length of time at a fraction of the price of buying new. It’s a great way to keep the kids happy and keep costs down.

How It Works

Ann-Marie McMillan is the founder of the Derbyshire Toy Libraries Network. Before the pandemic, the library ran out of four centres. During lockdown it had to close three of them. After receiving funding from the National Lottery the library launched an online click and collect service, which runs out of Belper Community Hall. Demand reached an all-time high. “At one point I received so many donations I was stockpiling toys in my neighbour’s double garage,” Ann-Marie told Quids in!

Members pay £10 for 12 months and can browse toys online. Prices range from as little as 50p a week up to £20 a week to hire. In-demand items are limited to a fortnight’s hire at a time.

The library started lockdown birthday packages which proved to be very popular for children’s parties. It has also introduced a voucher scheme which encourages people to buy a membership and hire rather than buy new. In total, since September 2020 the library has had over 230 members and hired out over 1,000 resources.

The library’s ebay and Facebook selling accounts have also proved a hit. Recently it has sold items like a vintage Cindy greenhouse. “Nothing goes to landfill,” says Ann-Marie. Any items that aren’t suitable for hire or sale are given to local food banks and charities.

Where to find your nearest library

You can find a toy library almost anywhere in the UK. A good place to check is your local council website, or give them a call.

Here are a couple:

  • In East London, Toyhouse in Tower Hamlets runs over 20 libraries. Call 020 7987 7399
  • In Gloucestershire, check out Kids Stuff and Allsorts
  • In Scotland, visit PlayPlus in Edinburgh. Enable Scotland runs toy libraries in East Dunbartonshire. Call 07889 456576

For tips on how to save money and waste when it comes to fashion and furniture, see our previous Reader’s Club stories.

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