Borrowing boom for toy libraries as cost-of-living pressure hits families

Toy libraries across Australia are booming as more families turn to borrowing toys to save money, reduce waste and reconnect with their communities after COVID-19.

Memberships at Australia’s 380-plus toy libraries have surged over the past two years, with new figures showing that over 130,000 families use a toy library every year.

The news comes as international attention turns to Victoria, the “toy library capital of the world”, with 150 toy librarians from 13 countries meeting at the 16th International Toy Library Conference in Melbourne (March 4-5 2023).

The Federal Government has committed $700,000 to support and grow toy libraries around Australia, with Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth speaking on the importance of these community organisations as she opened the conference today.

Toy libraries are a sustainable and affordable community solution to engaging young children and promoting their development through play. On average, a child gets bored of a toy within 36 days, which is why over half (51 per cent) the toys bought in Australia end up in landfill within a year.

Toy libraries across Australia own toys worth $28 million, many of which are high-value sensory and active toys that would otherwise be too expensive or impractical for families to own themselves. That equates to $640 worth of toys for every family belonging to a toy library, with most memberships costing less than $2 a week.

Toy Libraries Australia CEO Debbie Williams said the surge in toy library membership showed how effectively they meet the needs of both parents and children.

“Toy libraries are supporting families to help them meet our current challenges, not least of all the cost-of-living crisis and the desire to rebuild social connections post-Covid,” she said.

“Children learn through play, and toy libraries help parents and carers nurture children’s development through the critical early periods with ‘tools’ they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. They’re also community meeting places that encourage families to spend quality time playing together.

“This funding from the federal government will help further strengthen and grow toy libraries around Australia so more families can access a wide range of quality toys.

“With Melbourne hosting the International Toy Library Conference for the first time in 30 years, this is a time to celebrate toy libraries and what they offer to families and communities. Experts from around the world will share their knowledge on the importance of play and how we can keep toy libraries strong to support families for years to come.”

Find out more about Toy Libraries Australia

Toy Libraries Australia is the peak body for over 260 toy libraries and are a non-profit incorporated association, supporting and promoting the benefits of toy libraries to communities, children’s development and family wellbeing.