Growing trend at libraries allows kids to test drive toys

Most parents have experienced buyer’s remorse when it comes to toys. They spend a lot of money on something only to have their child lose interest in it quickly. Often, the box ends up being more interesting.

Now, a number of toy libraries are opening up around in the country, allowing children of all ages and abilities to check out toys for free.

Marisa Rafal, a graduate student studying education policy at the University of New Hampshire, recently opened New Hampshire's first toy library inside the Dover Public Library. The Somerville resident takes play seriously.

“It’s really crucial I think for learning, especially considering that it takes 400 repetitions to learn something by rote, but only 10-20 times through play," Rafal said.

Stephanie Dornsife, a parent of triplets, likes the concept. "We can test some toys out and if there's something that they've really taken to, I would consider making the purchase for that, so we could have it on a regular basis," she said.

That can provide real cost savings. Rafal says the average family spends almost $500 a year on toys.

The environment benefits as well. "If you could have families sharing toys instead of having every family in the world buying the same toy, it reduces the impact on the environment in terms of plastics and that sort of thing," said Dornsife.

All the toys are cleaned with an EPA-approved sanitizer when they are returned.

For Rafal, a toy library is about making sure every kid has a chance to be a kid. “I really hope that it increases access. If children see that their friends get to play with things, and they don’t, I think that’s just fundamentally unfair.”

A second toy library just opened in New Hampshire in the town of Boscawen. Toy libraries are also available in several towns in Massachusetts.

Rafal said she's been taking inquiries about how to start a toy library from as far away as New York. She's happy to exchange emails if anyone has any questions about how to get started.

There is also a Toy Library Association. Its website has listings of partner toy library locations from across the country. Click here for more information.

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