The Wanaka Community Toy Library is celebrating its 25th anniversary on Sunday with new offerings to the public that include a one-month free trial for new parents, an extension of Friday and Saturday closing hours to 11.30am and membership gift vouchers.
The toy library opened in 1993 with 15 family members and 80 toys. Today, it houses about 90 active members and 900 educational and fun toys for children aged zero to six, which can be borrowed for two weeks at a time.
“Our motto is ‘let the children play.’ When it first opened, Heather Wellman was the chairperson of the committee, and she is quoted as saying, ‘The main idea of the library was to promote and make available to the public quality educational toys. Many parents were not able to afford to buy such toys and puzzles for their preschoolers’,” said Wanaka Community Toy librarian Lisa Johnston.
The toy library is run solely by a committee of 10 volunteers and is funded by membership fees, fundraising events, grants and donations.
Johnston said she loves working at the library because it gives her daughter access to high-quality, fun toys and it reduces the wasteful practices of buying and throwing away toys.
“It teaches children about sharing, not being too attached to material things and it is a great little community hub. Every time we come home with a new set of toys, I get a break from parenting as my daughter is completely absorbed with exploring her latest haul. My mum and her friends set up one of the first toy libraries in New Zealand back in the early 1980s in Nelson, so I'm stoked to be able to carry on a bit of a family tradition too,” she said.
The toy library staff said they offer varying membership types, a bouncy castle rental and are always welcoming new members to their monthly committee meetings.