At the Family Resource Center, we are big believers that a rising tide lifts all boats when it comes to family and early childhood educational resources. As we continue to see early childhood education have its rightful moment in public conversations, more and more out-of-classroom resources are starting to crop up aimed at families of young children. From subscription boxes to phone apps, all of these services are designed for entertaining/educating children and helping families understand their child's development.
At the confluence of the early childhood education movement and the sustainability movement is the classic toy library: a place where families can temporarily borrow toys from a community-based inventory. Toy libraries are not a new concept and have been around for many decades. A toy library has many benefits: it reduces household waste, eliminates toy clutter, brings community members together, and allows families to try out a variety of toys that are unique and potentially inaccessible (think expensive or obscure).
As we at Kaleidoscope Learning continue to increase awareness about the Family Resource Center, we have noticed that hundreds of toy libraries exist in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, a vast majority of these toy libraries have the same format: you come into their location (usually a community center or church basement), browse their shelves, pay a small membership fee, and take your items home for a set certain duration of time. Our approach to the traditional toy library is different; here are five ways our Educational Materials Library is unique:
Borrow Toys for as Long as You Want
When you think of a library, you probably remember the days of heading to your government operated, community-based book-library, using your plastic library card and looking up ISBN codes to find a specific novel. You also probably remember the fear of up-coming due dates, not finishing a book in time, or the dreaded late fees ($0.25/per day/per book!). At the Family Resource Center, our Educational Materials Library has all the magic of borrowing a toy, without the pressure of returning items in two-weeks time. Families can have as many items checked out, for as long as they want, in accordance to their membership level.
Yes, we're serious.
What are the benefits of keeping an item for as long as you want? In the first six years of a child's life, they go through rapid stages of growth and development. These stages can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to many months. If your child is really connecting with a specific toy or furniture item, we believe they should not have to part ways with it prematurely. Simultaneously, if your child barely touches a toy, you should not have to wait until the due date to exchange it with a different item. As a member of our library, you have control over how long you have an item in your home.
Our Memberships Go Beyond Our Library
In addition to our Educational Materials Library, a membership to the Family Resource Center allows families to access a variety of early-childhood centered services. During our operational hours (Open Play Hours), families can enjoy our physical space, which we call our Model Home Environment. Children can try out different toys on our shelves, and adults are welcome to chat with each other or our Center Coordinators (Pa Chia and Theresa) about child development, parenting, specific toys, and more!
We host monthly Family Symposiums--parent education and community gathering events centered around supporting adults and creating a community for children. Our next Family Symposium will be held on October 18th, 2022 between 6:00-7:00 PM at the Family Resource Center. The theme of this event is "Family Pumpkin Craft Night." RSVP today to reserve your spot!
Browse Our Inventory Online Anytime, Anywhere
Typical toy libraries have their inventory available for in-person only. While there are benefits to exploring toys in-person, it can be quite overwhelming to wade through the large amount of materials. It can also be difficult to look for a specific item or group similar items together (Ex: My child is curious about oceans, so I want my next three items to be ocean themed. How do I find those items?).
Our entire inventory online! Categorized by themes, age appropriateness, and subjects, families can easily learn about all of our materials in the comfort of their own home or on the go. Our materials have high-quality photos and detailed descriptions, so you can get a full understanding of each toy and furniture item. We also have keywords assigned to each toy, making it easy to find specific materials you are looking for.
If there is a specific toy you would like to try out in-person before you bring it home, just stop by the Family Resource Center, and our staff will be happy to assist you.
Our Inventory is Filled with Specialty Furniture and Montessori Materials
Beyond simple toys and board games, our inventory is filled with items that are not commonly found in toy libraries. This includes our furniture selection, gross motor items, toys from small-batch toy manufacturers, educational kits designed by our in-house educator, and beautiful Montessori items commonly found in Children's House classrooms.
While these items are often beautiful and unique, they can often be hard to find, out-of-stock, or expensive. We have observed that many toy libraries do not carry these types of items, making our inventory a little different. Our Educational Materials Library is the perfect place to discover all the different ways to engage and entertain your child!
We Appeal to Child Care Providers, Homeschoolers, Early Childhood Educators, and Families Alike
We know that furnishing a classroom, homeschool set-up, or a child care program can be incredibly difficult, labor intensive, and time consuming. We recognize and sympathize with those who serve and educate young children--your work is incredibly valuable, and it goes beyond just simply caring for a child. Making sure you have age appropriate, developmentally friendly, interesting and fun materials is always on the top of the mind for people in this industry.
To make live a little easier for those furnishing their classroom and child care programs, we have created a Professional Membership level for those wanting to check out a large number of our materials. Our inventory is filled with materials selected by a seasoned early childhood educator. Items like our furniture, gross motor items, Montessori classroom materials, musical instruments, and educational kits are perfect for any early childhood professional, new or well seasoned, who want to go beyond the typical classroom fair of toys, puzzles, and games.
The benefit for early childhood professional to rent items from our Educational Materials Library is that it helps with toy management and clutter. Educators and providers can rotate in different items from our library inventory into their classroom spaces, allowing the burden of storage to fall on us. Gone are the days of shoving random toys into bins or whatever empty space you can find. Once your materials are thoroughly loved, bring them back in and swap them out for fresh ones!