Ealing Toy Library is an eco-friendly project set up in August 2019 by a pair of friends eager to see the concept become more popular in the UK, having seen how common it was in Australia and New Zealand.
Environmentally, and economically, the first couple of years of a child’s life is not always ideal.
Toys and development aids are often not cheap – and come with the added problem that a large proportion are made from hard plastic that cannot be recycled. And some can be quite bulky and hard to store.
From jumperoos and bouncers to walkers and musical toys, Ealing Toy Library makes sure it can provide things you need for a short period in that first couple of years of a child’s life, when they grow and change so fast. It caters for children under five, but does also have some things for older children, too.
Everything is done online, where its website holds a catalogue of items you can browse and order from. You then go and collect the item – and return it when you have finished with it.
The ‘click and collect’ library is still open with social distancing measures in place, and a toy ‘quarantine’ system to provide a buffer time – and extra cleaning – between loans.
‘BETTER TO BORROW THAN BUY’
Simmi Bajaj is a mum of twins and is one of the library’s founders. She said: “Plastic toys end up in landfill and cannot be recycled – but they can be reused and re-loved.
“Sustainability is a really important reason why we are doing this. We have a loyal base of users who agree that it’s better to borrow than to buy.
“There are a few toy libraries in the UK but not many; not like in New Zealand and Australia, where it is commonplace. We would love for it to become something national here, too.”
It all began with a link-up with the local Salvation Army, which had lots of toys it did not have room to store. The partnership has continued ever since. Members of the community also make donations and there have been talks with local libraries to look at working together.
“We get such good quality things, in really good condition,” said Simmi. “And we do have lots that are made with sustainable materials; not just plastic.
“It is nice to see things that have stopped being loved being loved again.”
To use the toy library, you have to pay for a membership to help cover its costs. Visit the Ealing Toy Library website to find out what it has to offer, and for details of memberships.