Friday, 27 May 2016

The Toy LIbrary

in our local council area is well used it seems but I wonder how it keeps going.
I know something about toy libraries. I worked with someone else to set up the first ever toy library in this state. That is more years ago than I care to remember. Back then it was not intended as a general lending library for all children. Instead it was a highly specialised library for children with disabilities. The toys were chosen accordingly.
Toy libraries spread in this state from that first library. They extended further into the "special education" sector and then into the pre-school area. 
Our neighbours used the toy library for their children. As their father said, "It gave the boys an opportunity to play with things we could not afford to buy. It also gave us an opportunity to see what we could afford to buy that they would really use."
Oh yes, it is a good idea. 
But when toy libraries started out here there was, as always, a limited amount of money and we sought help from people who could make the sort of toys the people  using the library needed and wanted.
The Senior Cat made some over weekends. He made samples for other weekend carpenters to copy. He made sturdy wooden blocks and "posting" boxes. He made simple wooden puzzles. Other people in his woodworking group did the same. 
The children responded to these things. They were designed to suit them, designed to suit small hands, unsteady hands, with bright vegetable dyes that could be seen by those with poor eyesight. The pieces were all approved sizes - that could not possibly be swallowed. They were shapes that children could not hurt themselves on. 
All the toys had "play value" too. The puzzles had associated books - simple picture books. There were cassette tapes (well yes, it was rather a long time ago) of music and story. 
While we were clearing out the shed we came across seven more puzzles. The Senior Cat had put them away. They were samples. They had never been used. They were in perfect condition. What to do with them?
I gave one to someone I thought might be able to use it and I took the rest off to the Toy Library although I had a sneaking suspicion they might not want them.  Well, they did want them but they were not allowed to take them for the library.
No, the quality had not changed. The needs of the children have not changed. The staff I showed them to thought they were wonderful. They would have loved to have them  but "occupational health and safety" now demands that only commercially made toys with a manufacturer's label and number and....well you get the picture don't you? 
They did take them - to sell. They will buy something for the library with the money the donation raises.
     "I wish we could keep them," the senior toy librarian told me, "They are so much nicer than the ones we have."
I pedalled away thinking of the group of men in "The Men's Shed" who do woodwork, men who would be all too happy to make toys for such places - men who would like to feel "useful". 
But, somewhere in the last few years, someone has made a decision that it is no longer "safe" to have good, solid, home-made toys. It is better to have flimsy plastic which can be "cleaned" and thrown away after a year or so. 
My great nieces are still playing with the blocks I played with when I was a very small kitten and the eldest tells me that her children will play with them too. The Senior Cat made those.
Isn't that they way children should play? 


jeanfromcornwall said...

Totally ridiculous of course. It is something of a wonder that we are actually still allowed to buy yarn and needles with tha attitude extant - can we be trusted to use them porperly? Or even properly!!!

catdownunder said...

Probably not - and as for the "boys" with all those sharp tools!

Anonymous said...

I would have loved to be able to get hold of decent wooden blocks, solid cars and trains, and wooden puzzles when we had preschoolers. They would have been handed around the family for generations. OHS has taken a lot of fun out of our lives at all ages!

I have attended a quilting retreat at a well known facility run by a large charitable organization. On the first evening we are welcomed by the manager, who proceeds to tell us the rules of the establishment. He has his routine and sticks to it, giving us the same lecture as the fourteen year old boys.

We are informed that we are not allowed to bring any alcohol, which we accept, but we're also told not to remove the mattresses from the dormitories, or jump on the bunks, or take the blankets outside, amongst other things. After the first lecture a retired high school principle remarked that she wanted to break at least one of the rules before she left. He kept it a little shorter but still went on about the bedding this year, despite talking to a group of mainly retired women.

I told the committee to never mention to him that we use scissors, needles, pins and rotary cutters. The lecture would last all night!

catdownunder said...

I may need to comment privately on that one Judy! Eeeeeeek