Guide to toy libraries

If you haven’t got the budget to keep up with the latest toy or gadget, why not borrow them instead?

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With the news that toy prices have rocketed in price in since last year, it’s little wonder that parents feel the financial pressures when trying to keep their children’s toy boxes full.

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However, thanks to local libraries, there is now a large group of toy loaning services that gives parents the chance to loan toys for small fees (sometimes free).

So not only does your little one get to play with lots of different toys – you get to save money and meet other likeminded mums too. With the average child owning £6,000 worth of toys but only playing with £330, it’s worth looking into other (cheaper) options.

What is a toy library?

There are more than 1,000 toy libraries around the UK. Essentially a toy library is a place where instead of borrowing books, you can select toys to take home for a small registration fee. The libraries offers parents the chance to borrow carefully selected toys for all ages. Some also run ‘stay and play’ sessions, where children can play together and parents can meet up.

Not only will it take the pressure of you when it comes to buying toys, it’s also a great way to meet new people and for your child to gain new friends too. Most toy libraries offer on-site activity groups where the volunteers (who are usually parents themselves) conduct play sessions, sing-a-longs and storytelling.

How many toys are available?

The amount of toys on offer varies at each toy library. Each library ensures that all ages are catered for, so expect baby toys (play mats, soft toys), construction toys (Lego, Mega Bloks), activity toys (ride-ons) and imaginative toys (pretend play). This gives your child the opportunity to play with lots of different toys and gadgets they might not have experienced otherwise – plus it takes the pressure off you to go out and buy all the latest products.

How much does it cost?

Prices cost as little as £3 per family for an annual pass, but vary at each library, so you’ll need to check with your local toy library. Some charge per toy as well, which can vary from 50p – £1.

Just like ordinary libraries, you’ll need to bring some ID or a recent utility bill the first time you go in order to register. If you are a childminder you’ll need your qualification certificate and nursery workers will need proof of profession too.

How many toys can I borrow?

Most libraries let parents borrow toys for up to 2-3 weeks. The number of toys that can be borrowed at one time varies from one to five, depending on the library. Childminders and nursery groups can borrow up to 20 items.

Where do the toys come from?

The toys are either donated or come from council and government grants.

Are the toys in good condition?

All toys are cleaned and are kept in good condition. Like charity shops who offer second hand goods, all items are regularly checked for chips, scratches and faults. As long as the borrowed toys are returned in good condition, then they will continue to be lent out for a long time.

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Do I need to clean the toys before I return them?

The rule is; return the toys in the same condition you received them! If your little one accidentally breaks the toy, there will be a small fee.

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