This Toy Library Allows Families To Check Out Toys Instead Of Books

by Julie Scagell
Minneapolis Toy Library/Instagram

The Minneapolis Toy Library has been lending toys for over five years

Libraries are the perfect place for book lovers, job seekers, event attendees, and community members to learn new skills and provide everyone access to learning. One Minneapolis organization took the idea of what libraries represent — sharing, borrowing, and sustainability — and created that same environment, but with toys.

The Minneapolis Toy Library, a toy-lending library that launched in 2014, is a place for parents, grandparents, and other adults with kids in their lives “to connect with children — ages birth to 5 — through play.” According to their Facebook page, its mission is to “reduce waste, foster development and make high-quality toys accessible to families all over the Minneapolis community.”

The library was founded by moms Molly Stern and Taryn Tessneer, who received a small community grant and originally launched the “store” as a mobile program at free meeting rooms in libraries throughout Minneapolis. Eventually, they found a permanent home at Richfield Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, all centered around the idea of reducing their footprint and making toys available for all families.

Rebecca Nutter, a mother of three young daughters, joined them a few months later and now runs the program. They started small with just a few families showing up at a time, but the concept quickly took off; and, today, the toy library has as many as 500 members and around 4,000 toys available for lending.

Nutter tells Scary Mommy that the library, which is run with the help of volunteers, is always in need of donations. “We would love more board games and always love dolls, animals, or anything for pretend play,” she says.

All items are well-labeled and age-specific and include everything from puzzles and board games to blocks, trucks, dollhouses, educational kits, instruments, and everything in-between.

Members can borrow up to five toys and games for as long as one month for an annual fee. Memberships run on a sliding scale from $40 to $100 (the higher fee gives the library owners an opportunity to offer free memberships to those in need), and the toy library charges a late fee ($1) if toys aren’t brought back on time. “I’m so Minnesotan when it comes to that,” Nutter told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Library hours are every other Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., every other Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and every other Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, which is also an opportunity for people to drop off toy donations. Nutter just asks that toys be in good condition, safe, and designed for children from birth to 5 years of age. Items not accepted include stuffed animals, baby bouncers, baby furniture, books, and recalled toys.

If you think about the number of toys lying around your house at any given time and how quickly kids lose interest, the concept is a brilliant one. It gives kids the opportunity to play with toys they may never have gotten a chance to play with — and the ability to return them for others to enjoy.

If they do receive toys they aren’t able to use in the library, they’ll find a home for them eventually.

“We will try to find a way to re-purpose the item or put it into recycling, if possible,” Nutter says. “We work hard on creating very little toy waste that goes to the landfill.”