Early Childhood Education Journal, Vol. 25, No.

4, 1998

Guidelines for Beginning and Maintaining a Toy Lending Library
Michael A. Rettig12

Toy lending libraries can provide a valuable service for families with young children. The establishment of these toy libraries requires thought and planning to be successful. Some suggestions are provided to help individuals who may be considering setting up such a program.
KEY WORDS: toy lending libraries; toys; Lekotek.

INTRODUCTION
Toy Lending libraries, or toy libraries are a service that provides parents and professionals with an opportunity for shared play and the loan of toys. Although the specific focus of toy libraries may differ from community to community or country to country, the basic intent of toy libraries has been to provide stimulating toys for children to play with and opportunities for parents and children to play together (Jackson, Robey, Watjus, & Chadwick 1991; Kapellaka, 1992). Since their inception, toy libraries have provided specialized toys that were not readily available or expensive toys needed by children with special needs (Kapellaka, 1992). Mayfield (1988) notes that toy libraries help children and parents gain access to a wide variety of toys and playthings and assist parents in getting professional advice about play and working with children, especially those children with special needs. The loan of specially adapted toys combined with parent training helps promote family involvement and can serve to expand the child's play opportunities in a family setting (Jackson et al., 1991; Rub, 1987). This article will review a brief history of toy lending libraries and the purpose of Lekoteks. Guidelines and suggestions for developing and maintaining a toy lending library will also be reviewed.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOY LENDING LIBRARIES
Toy lending libraries date back to the 1930s, with the earliest toy library established in Los Angeles during the depression years (Kapellaka, 1992). Later, toy libraries were established in Germany in 1952 and in Denmark in 1959. In 1963, two mothers of children with disabilities began the Lekotek program in Sweden (deVincentis, 1984). The focus of Lekotek was on children with disabilities and their families. A second type of toy library was established in 1967 in England which also had an initial focus on children with disabilities (Juul, 1984). Since the 1970s, toy libraries have been established in more than 30 countries including Iceland, Denmark, Canada, Zimbabwe, Norway, and France (Juul, 1984). In a more recent report, Brodin and BjorckAkesson, (1992) have found that there are more than 4500 toy libraries in 31 countries. In 1984, the USA Toy Library Association was founded with the goal of promoting the public value of play, the creation of toy libraries, and to serve as a resource to parents and professionals (Juul, 1984). The USA Toy Library Association serves as a national networking resource to promote play as an important part of development. The USA Toy Library Association publishes a quarterly newsletter, Child's Play, and has also published a booklet on how to start up and manage a toy library which includes sections on staffing, funding, insurance, cataloging, and so forth (USA Toy Library Association, 1985).

'Department of Education, Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas. 'Correspondence should be directed to Michael A. Rettig, Department of Education, Washburn University, 1700 SW College Avenue, Topeka, Kansas 66621; e-mail: zzrettig@acc.wuacc.edu

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funding from these sources may not be ongoing. However. Domroese (1985) suggests that before starting a toy library individuals should address five key questions: (1) the mission of the toy library. 1985. (2) toy exchanges. 1984). First begun in Sweden. Lekotek leaders are knowledgeable about commercial and educational toys and have experience in adapting toys. who will be the clientele. Lekoteks now exist worldwide. in recent years Lekoteks have also been a sponsor for CompuPlay. 1992). In addition. and "otek" which is part of bibliotek which means library. Brodin and Bjorck-Akesson (1992) have indicated that charitable organizations have played an important role in funding toy libraries. especially with special switches that can be used by young children with physical disabilities. Lekoteks are staffed by trained professionals (deVincentis. (3) staffing. LEKOTEKS Lekotek is a family resource center that primarily serves children with special needs. However. of course. ESTABLISHING A TOY LENDING LIBRARY The establishment of a toy lending library would provide an important community resource. 1984).. the focus of Lekoteks has been on the family. Jackson et al. has expanded its focus to include any child with special needs. Questions to Ask Before Starting a Toy Lending Library • • • • • • • • How much start up money is needed? What is the mission and purpose of the toy lending library? What are the needs of children and families in the community? Have sources of funding such as foundation or government grants been explored? Where will the toy library be housed? Is there adequate space for all materials? Will volunteer help be available? Who will make up the governing board of the toy lending library? What kinds of insurance coverage will be needed? . what are the needs of this clientele. (3) CompuPlay. The term Lekotek comes from the Swedish "lek" which means both play and toys. (4) space. 1997). (6) family newsletters. Start-up funding for a new toy lending library may come from private trusts or foundations. It is not unusual for trusts and foundations to provide grant monies for the initial development of a project such as the establishment of a toy lending library. adaptive equipment. Kapellaka. 1992). especially for young children with disabilities or children coming from low-income homes. Jackson et al. Lekotek extended its services to include children who are born with the HIV vims. and (7) family social events. FUNDING The initial and ongoing funding of the toy library would. and (5) operation. thought and planning will be required to develop a successful toy lending library.230 There have been two basic types of toy libraries established including the Lekotek model and the British model (Domroese. (4) integrated play groups. and the primary emphasis has been on children with disabilities. Individuals involved in the development of a toy library should also address several questions including what are the goals of the toy library. the first Lekotek was set up in the United States in 1980 in Illinois (deVincentis. teenage mothers. Lekoteks have an extensive library of toys. One of the major differences between the two types of programs is that the Britishtype of program is typically staffed by nonprofessional volunteers rather than professional staff (Jackson et al. Lekotek attempts to meet some of these special needs by providing adapted toys and family support. The grantee is often expected to secure funds to continue the project after the initial funding has ended. Established in Sweden in 1963.. 1992). and are there any other community agencies already meeting these needs? (see Table I) (Wiscont. for example. be an important consideration. A number of services are often available through Lekotek including: (1) a parent resource library. 1987). which began serving children with disabilities. Table I. (5) parent inservices/workshops. (2) funding. a computer-based project that serves children with disabilities and their families (Trieschmann. There are currently more than 70 Lekoteks in 24 states. children exposed to drugs in utero. while private trusts and foundations may provide funds for the establishment of a toy lending library. and are often associated with some type of diagnostic or habilitation center (Brodin & Bjorck-Akesson. From the beginning. Rettig Lekotek leaders also model play strategies for parents on site by making use of the large collection of unique and conventional toys. Such a situation can make funding such a project unreliable (Juul. 1984. 1991). and books. The British model. In the 1990s. 1991. not just the child. The Lekotek model stresses that young children with disabilities and their families will have special needs. Funding for existing toy libraries has come from both public or private sources. The Lekotek approach has been a popular toy library model (Juul. and children at-risk from environmental factors. 1984).

continued funding would need to be sustained to maintain the collection. Certainly a important issue in terms of how much money is required to sustain a toy lending library focuses on who will staff it. The largest expense in the operation of a toy lending library would be hiring the staff necessary to assist in the operation of the Library (see Table II). factors such as staffing. and working with families. The amount of space needed for the storage of play materials and/or use of the play materials is another important consideration. Staffing considerations are related to. language. cataloging. If the full benefits of a toy library are to be realized it would seem essential that toy libraries. ACQUISITION OF TOYS The acquisition of a wide variety of good quality toys would be essential. space. As the number of toys in the library increases more and more space will obviously be required. Once established. be staffed by trained professionals who are knowledgeable of child development. However. and their hours are suited to working parents. and how to deal with lost or damaged items. If children and their families are to be provided with an opportunity to play with the toys at the toy lending site an adequate "play room" will need to be provided. volunteers often lack the skills necessary to be of optimum help to children and families. and operation issues. Programs involving professional staff are going to require more funds than programs operated by volunteers. though library staff would be knowledgeable of library procedures. especially those serving young children with disabilities and their families. funding. This would include such factors as the purchase and acquisition of toys and play materials. and will meet the differing developmental needs of children. toys should be selected that cross different developmental domains such as gross and fine motor. durable. and family assistance may influence the amount of space that is required. STAFFING Another consideration in developing a toy library would be staffing. The length of time for check-out of materials should be determined by each toy library and could be influenced by such factors as the number of toys available or the population being served. SELECTING A SITE Where the toy library is located or housed is another important consideration related to funding and staff demands. Though initial start-up costs could provide funds for a large number of toys and playthings. The number of staff and their training are other important questions to address. a toy lending library would need ongoing funding to maintain staff. Toys should be selected that are safe. Juul (1984) has indicated that while Lekoteks have a high quality staff they sometimes lack the idealism of volunteers. they may not have the knowledge to assist parents in selecting and using specially adapted toys. In addition. Lekoteks are staffed by trained professionals while other types of toy libraries are staffed primarily by volunteers. As indicated previously. Another possible location for a toy lending library would be a local agency serving young children such as a school or child care center. Questions to Ask When Developing a Toy Lending Library 1 What are the sources of ongoing funding for the toy lending library? • Are there an adequate number and variety of toys for children of different developmental ages? • Is the check-out system adequate? • Are provisions in place to adequately clean toys? • Are staff available at times that meet the needs of families? 231 ing system. length of check-out. On the other hand.Guidelines for a Toy Lending Library Table II. The use of a computer database and bar code readers could assist in maintaining accurate records of check-out and cataloging. and check-out. In addition. Toys that are easily adaptable to meet the needs of young children with disabilities would also be required. According to Domroese (1985) public libraries would be a good place for toy libraries because they are highly accessible to the public. Parents and . toys. have an established lend- CLEANLINESS AND SAFETY Common sense may be the most important preventive measure regarding the safety of toys. and social skills. Such a site would have knowledgeable staff available and would be in a location children and parents were familiar with. Cataloging and check-out of play materials could be handled as in any library. Toys and play materials should be selected to ensure that enough toys are available for different developmental ages. and even determined by. exceptionalities. OPERATION OF THE TOY LIBRARY The overall operation of the toy library would be another important consideration. as well as to replace worn out toys and playthings or to add new items to the collection.

(3) the toys are not developmentally appropriate. The toy library service at Honeylands Family Support unit: An assessment. D. Morris. M. Child: Care. 68(1). S. that is especially important for infants and toddlers." « A dishwasher will be safe for many plastic toys. & Rogers. E. but there would be significant benefits to families with children coming from low income homes or families with children with special needs. (October. International Journal of Early Childhood. Taylor. M. S. (1987). (1997). IL. Early Childhood Education Journal. Childhood Education. Some cleaning solutions. I. the USA Toy Library Association Operator's Manual. 53-56. IL 60201 800-366-PLAY E-mail: Lekotek@Lekotek. Learning Games Libraries: Help for the at-Risk Child: A Growing Movement in Illinois. M. and Rogers (1997) note that the most common reasons why toy related accidents occur are: (1) the toys are inherently dangerous.232 Table III. • Old toothbrushes or vegetable brushes can be used to clean in crevices of toys to ensure a complete cleaning. Trieschmann. Antibacterial soaps can be used to give the dolls a "bath. Canadian Children. 24(2). If toys show signs of wear or have broken parts. (1977). 1984). 42-45. 10(3). DC. Denver. G. • Washing plastic dolls can be done as an activity with children. 24(4). Evanston. Paper presented at the Council for Exceptional Children conference. for example. Morris. Toy libraries in Canada: A research study. (1992). (1994). • Disinfectant sprays can be purchased through medical supply companies. S. J. Mayfield. M. The formula should be one part bleach to ten parts water. 77(7).. 13(1). V. deVincentis.. E. A dishwasher may work for some toys but other toys may melt during the wash/dry cycle and some hollow toys will retain water when soaked which may result in mold growing inside the toy (see Table III). and Development. Rettig number of sources of information are available to assist individuals in setting up a toy lending library. Methods of Cleaning Toys • Cloth dolls can be put through a gentle wash cycle in a washing machine. 33-39. Put smaller items in flow through bags to keep them together.. may fade some plastic toys with repeated soakings. Hillery. (1987)... Watjus. It is extremely important that toys that are manipulated and mouthed by children be cleaned after they are used to reduce the possibilities of germs and infections being spread to other children. (April 1984). (1988). Computer games: Every child can play. 13(2). 235-238. EuroRehab. and (4) the toys are used without rules for their safe use. Suite 740 New York. has to do with cleaning toys.. 4-5. Washington. USA Toy Library Association (1985). Evanston. many toys in the tub. CO. How do we keep them clean? Child's Play. (April. Play for ALL children: The toy library solution. C. S. The Toy Lending Library. Jackson. (1992). 27-31. • A spray formula of bleach can be used on a wide variety of playthings. 2. 97-102. Toy libraries/Lekoteks in an international perspective. Robey. SOURCES OF INFORMATION ON TOYS AND PLAYTHINGS Guide for Selecting Toys for Children with Disabilities National Lekotek Center Evanston Civic Center 2100 Ridge Ave. The formula should be changed frequently because the bleach will lose its potency over time. Wiscont. (2) the toys are used inappropriately by children. Health. Washington. Toy libraries: Learning through play with toys. 1985). Suite 111 Evanston. Having staff who are trained in early childhood education that can help parents and children select the right toys can help to prevent these potential problems. U. C. & Bjorck-Akesson. How to start up and operate a toy library. A . REFERENCES Brodin.org Toys and Play The Toy Manufacturers of America Guide 200 Fifth Ave. C. K. Toy Libraries for the Handicapped: An International Survey. Lekotek: Swedish Play Intervention for Handicapped Children. She notes. Paper presented at the Council for Exceptional Children conference. Kapellaka. Rub. NY 10010 USA Toy Library Association 2530 Crawford Ave. Exceptional Parent. Paper presented at the Division for Early Childhood conference. a few are listed here. Hillery (1994) provides a number of suggestions for cleaning toys. USA Toy Library Association. S. & Chadwick. 1-18. Rub a dub dub. such as diluted bleach water. J. Putting them in a hosiery bag will help keep them from being twisted. Toy safety and selection. Seminar paper. • Many toys can be air dried or a hair dryer may be used to dry toys.. Another consideration related to safety and toys. IL 60201 (847) 864-3330 teachers should be knowledgeable about the toys and playthings children are playing with. Taylor. Juul. Domroese. N. they should be discarded. that several different types of cleaning solutions may be necessary to clean different toys. University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh (ERIC Document Reproduction Service Number ED 335 038). SUMMARY The establishment of a toy lending library will take time and planning. DC. (1991). L.

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