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Toy library in need, facing closure

Maddie, 2, with Victor, 1 [background], give the toy library’s ball pit a go. PHOTOS/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

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Masterton Toy Library has six months to find a new home or shut down for good.

The not-for-profit organisation received notice last Tuesday of the need to vacate its premises. The YMCA headquarters, where the toy library has been located for the past 12 or so years, is about to undergo extensive renovations.

Masterton Toy Library began in 1979 and was, at one stage, the largest toy library in New Zealand.

It served about 150 families.

Other users included grandparents who occasionally looked after their grandchildren and schools, such as the assisted learning unit at Wairarapa College.

Tia Mita plays with son Victor, 1.

Toy Library committee chairwoman Jenny Barre said they were keenly searching for a new place to operate from and welcomed any suggestions. Its ideal premises would be spacious and not too expensive.

“We’re very optimistic, I wouldn’t say confident,” Barre said. “We’re contacting everyone we can think of.”

“Parking is one of the really big concerns because parents have to be able to take the toys and kids out of the car.”

While there was also a small toy library operating out of the Carterton Library, some parents from Carterton travelled to the Masterton Toy Library because of the wider selection available.

There were also smaller toy libraries in Martinborough, Featherston, and Pahiatua.

Barre, who was an ex-teacher, said there was a need for the service.

“In the 1970s, when my children were small, this is just what we wanted – particularly the educational type toys.

“Good toys are so expensive, and children don’t need to use them for a long time.”

Playing with toys helped children to learn about problem-solving and empathy, as well as co-ordination skills.

“Play is really important, particularly in the preschool years, they just learn so much. It’s recognised in schools now.”

Parent and volunteer Tia Mita said the toy library was a “valuable” place to have.

“A lot of families say they come in here to try out the toys before making a big purchase because otherwise, it’s just a waste.”

She also enjoyed the sense of community she received through the library.

“It removes that isolation, especially for new families. I’ve met other parents here.”

Parent Kelly Haywood said going to the library was like an outing in itself.

“Especially when they get a bit more aware of things,” she said.

“Learning through play is everything at the moment. It’s fun for me too.”

Parent and committee member Fleur Chapman appreciated the library from an environmental perspective.

“I’m very much on the zero-waste bandwagon.”

“For my children, it’s just like Christmas every second week because they get new toys,” she said.

“They’re acutely aware of the fact that we’re not going to buy this toy, we’re going to get it from the toy library and we’re not going to contribute to [environmental waste].”

As part of its fundraising, the toy library is holding a “Preggy to Preschool” market day on Saturday, November 21, at St Patrick’s School hall.

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