A toy library is like a book library, only you know, for toys. It’s a way to store and rotate toys and it’s an excellent way to keep clutter at bay.
Toys Here, Toys There, Toys Everywhere!
Do you find your play area littered with toys at the end of the day that has barely been played with? Do toys find their way into every single room in your home? Let’s be honest here, I often find toys in the bathroom, that don’t belong there at all. Who needs a tomato in the loo?
I’m okay with toys migrating into odd places. Apparently, that tomato was not, as I wrongly assumed, a tomato. No, it was a toothbrush and “you brush your teeth in the bathroom, mama!” I promise that I brush neither my nor my son’s teeth with a tomato. Our toothbrushes aren’t even red! I love imaginative play and I would never stop my son from using his toys in this way – in fact, we encourage it.
No matter how few or many toys your children have, you need to store them somehow and that’s where toy libraries make a difference.
There are many ways to store toys. I’m personally fond of the Montessori way of storing toys. In this philosophy, you keep toys visible and accessible to the children. I’m also fond of making what you have work and in our case, that means putting a lot of toys in a couple of open baskets that our son dives into every day and often empty on the floor. What a nightmare, right?! Not at all. Because we make use of toy libraries, it’s very quick and easy to put the toys back into the baskets every so often. We often make our son help clean up, but even if we end up doing most of the work, it can be done in less than 2 minutes.
How Toy Libraries Work
If you are imagining huge boxes of toys stored in a basement or garage, then you are spot on. That’s actually what my childhood looked like. We had a small room in the basement that housed all of my toy bins. If I wanted to play with trains, I had to go fetch the box in the basement first. There was one rule: You can play with it all, but only one box at a time. I grew up with a toy library, I just had no idea that it had a name. To me, it was just my parents’ way of doing things. I knew it was a bit different, none of my friends had a toy library, but they all loved going into my toy library.
Fast forward to 2015 when I had my son and the toys started to trickle in. I knew we needed a toy library as well, but how could we implement the principle in our tiny home? The answer was shelves, boxes and baskets.
The benefits of a toy library
There are many benefits of a toy library, here are just some of them:
- Fewer toys to be strewn around the house at any given time.
We’ve already discussed this and it’s the most obvious benefit. Fewer toys to play with = fewer toys to pick up. It makes it easier for adults and children alike to pick up after a wonderful day full of play.
- Taking full advantage of the new and shiny factor.
You know that blissful time when your child plays for hours with a new toy? You can make that happen every few months, weeks or even days depending on your toy rotation and child! For us, this is an every now and then occurrence because my son doesn’t have a large number of toys to rotate through. If your children have more toys then you can take full advantage of the new and shiny factor by simply taking some old toys out of storage at night and placing them in plain sight for your children to play with next morning. I promise this technique is worth creating a toy library for all of its own.
- Stimulates imagination.
Having fewer toys to play with forces the child to make up more ways to use each toy. One of my son’s more recent creations is a coffee grinder. He puts a round clothes brush into a cup and makes a grinding noise. Voilá, coffee grinder!
A Look at Our Toy Libraries
Have I convinced you that you need a toy library yet? Let me show you ours! We have 3 main toy libraries in our home. The first is in our tiny storage space in the apartment complex’s basement. Here we store toys that our son has grown out of, but we hope to use for a second child someday. This is traditional storage at it’s best or worst, depending on how you feel about storing things, I guess. We use clear stackable boxes, like these (affiliate link), to store the toys in. That way, it’s easy to find the box you’re looking for.
The second way we do toy storage is up high on shelves. I use these shelves for toys my son enjoy to play with often, but I also find decorative. Since we all share a bedroom, which also doubles as my workspace, I want the visible items to look nice and contribute to the feel of the entire room. It’s okay to opt for toys that don’t offend your senses as a parent. That’s why our son, as a rule, doesn’t have toys with batteries.
The third way we use a toy library is in three small baskets under the changing table. These baskets are easily accessible to my son. He can go and find what he wants or take out an entire basket at a time. Again, the same rule applies as in my childhood, you can only have one basket out at a time.
You can find a lot of different baskets that won’t break the bank. These ones are plastic baskets (affiliate link) we got very cheaply when we first had our son and they were a make-do solution. They’ve housed everything from diapers to clothes and are still going strong, after almost three years of daily use. If I could do it over, I would opt for something like these really beautiful ones from Kingwillow. (affiliate links)
If you want to know more about raising children, I encourage you to read two books: Clutterfree with Kids (affiliate link) by Joshua Becker and Simplicity Parenting (affiliate link) by Kim John Payne. Payne’s book has an entire section devoted to toy libraries and the usefulness of them.