Small Talk Tag: Inspiration

Toy Libraries: Lending a Smile

Toypedia Toy Library

You can rent just about anything these days: books, cars, videos (ok, well, maybe not so much anymore)… but how about toys? While toy libraries haven’t quite caught on yet in America, they’re all the rage in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Here’s how it works: parents buy a yearly membership to their local toy library to check out a toy for a period of time, similar to a book from a library. Once the time period is up, the toy is returned to the library, cleaned, and put back on the shelf for the next child. Pretty cool, huh? Not only do toy libraries promote learning and cognitive development through play, they also keep unwanted toys out of landfills and save parents tons of money!

Here in America, folks seem to be warming up to the toy lending concept. A librarian at the Ottendorfer branch of the New York Public Library in the East Village decided to loan out an American Girl doll, Kirsten Larson, along with her corresponding storybook. The unofficial doll lending program became immensely popular and has since expanded to include several other American Girls, which normally retail for upwards of $100. Offering children the opportunity to play with a toy their parents might not be able to afford is yet another reason toy libraries are catching on. Click here to find a toy library near you!

Photo: Toypedia, a toy library with branches in Gurgaon and South Delhi, India.

Comfort Objects

Theo and Beau

It might have been a blankie, a doll, or a stuffed animal… children find comfort in objects like these and they just can’t let go. The more ragged it becomes, the more it’s loved, from a ratty piece of silky ribbon barely hanging on to the blanket edge to a pink cow that has lost almost all of its stuffing.

Last month, blogger Jessica Shyba wrote a post about her son’s most unusual comfort object and it’s just too cute not to share! Every day when her son Beau falls asleep for his afternoon nap, the family’s new puppy Theo snuggles up with him. Jessica has been sharing photos of the cuddling pair on her blog and on Instagram under the hashtag #TheoandBeau. If you can handle the adorableness, then check it out!

Slow Down This Season With Slow Toys

Slow Toy Awards 2013

Twenty-five years after the Slow Food Movement gained traction, filling bellies with delicious traditional and regional cuisine that utilized the local ecosystem, the Slow Toys Movement was formed by Thierrey Bourret in the United Kingdom. According to Bourret, slow toys encourage traditional play, boost creative thinking, inspire the development of one’s own imagination, are not made of plastic, are without batteries, are sold in independent toy shops, are durable, stand the test of time, and are without thousands of functions.

Every year Bourret takes nominations via email and a panel of judges choose the seven top slow toys of the year. 2013’s winners were all made out of wood except for a construction set with metal parts, and plastic cables, gears, and wheel hubs that can be constructed different models. Many of the wooden toys may look familiar, from the train set and building blocks to the doll stroller and tiny tricycle. We love this movement, which elevates beautifully crafted wooden toys and much-loved dollhouses that encourage creativity and imagination!

You Can Do Anything Good

Goldie Blox

Toys have communicated gender roles for generations: baby dolls and tea sets taught little girls how to be good mothers and hostesses, while building sets and trains prepared little boys for careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A Stanford engineer set out to create a toy that helped little girls do what they already know: they can do anything good.

The result? GoldieBlox, a toy that lights little girls inventive spark and gives them the opportunity to explore all the possibilities for what they can be when they grow up. A set of interactive books and games, GoldieBlox is taking the pink toy aisles by storm. While we haven’t played with GoldieBlox yet, we love the mission behind it: a girl is more than just a princess, they can be anything they want to be!

Rainbow Loom On

Keep Calm and Rainbow Loom On

I’m sure you’ve heard of Beanie Babies, Pogs, Tamagotchi, and Silly Bandz. But have you heard of Rainbow Loom?! It’s currently flying off store shelves.

The loom was invented by an engineer wanting to spend quality time with his daughters, but with fingers too large to participate. The easy-to-use loom weaves jewelry using a plastic pegboard and mini, multicolored rubber bands. The company’s YouTube channel and an exploding social community exhibit the endless possibilities. So what’s not to love? It’s a entrepreneurial, toy business success story based on family and reinventing a classic toy.

Thought Rainbow Loom sounded familiar too? That’s because the concept isn’t that different from pot holder weaving sets. Rainbow Loom fosters creativity, focus, fine motor skills, and patience; some have even argued that it promotes digital literacy. One thing is for sure: it’s created a lot of “kidpreneurs” selling rubber bracelets instead of lemonade at roadside stands near you. Keep calm and Rainbow Loom on!

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