Recently we asked our followers on Facebook to chime on what non-toy gifts they like to give children. We received many great ideas that we would like to share with you. We think these are great ways to give children something unique and something that doesn’t add to a parents growing pile of toys. In all honestly, those toys my kids have gotten as gifts, generally don’t get played with a ton. What they would really treasure is TIME with loved ones or EXPERIENCES that will create memories. Keep this page handy for when those gift opportunities arise. We will continue to add ideas as we think of them.
- Children’s Museum, Science Museum, Zoo memberships
- State Park passes
- Sea Life membership
- Heartfelt art studio in Minneapolis
- Stages or Children’s Theater tickets
- InnerActive or Good Times Park indoor park memberships
- Nickelodeon Universe
- Membership to Wood Lake Nature Center
- Art Classes at the Minneapolis Institute of Art
- Crayola Experience
- Skill Lessons at Buck Hill
- Dairy Queen gift card
- Edinborough Indoor Play Area
- Richfield Pool pass
- Minnesota Bouldering Center punchcards
- Mini golf gift certificate
- Movie passes
- Historical society membership
- Kelley farm
- Fort Snelling
Are you passionate about community organizations and projects? Interested to see how an organization can go from a grassroots organization to the next level of being incorporated into the community as a vital resource for families and kids? Join us and help us make the Toy Library what it could be. We’re dreaming big: multiple locations, automated check-out/in process, online reservations, community events and education and operating as a non-profit organization.
Wondering if you’re the right fit for the board- consider the following:
- You’re an experienced board member and know the ins and outs of board processes.
- You are connected to educational resources.
- You’re good with numbers.
- You are great with strategic planning.
- You have creative ideas and a can-do attitude.
- You love the toy library and you want to see it thrive.
- You’ve written a grant and know about the best practices.
- You’ve started an organization before and know non-profit processes/policies.
- You want to get involved in your community and see a board position as a great fit.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. We’re delighted that you’re considering this volunteer position!
Through a grant we received from Hennepin County (Minneapolis, MN), our group purchased a toy recycling box through the company, TerraCycle. TerraCycle would take broken and traditionally non-recyclable toys, manually pull out like items (textiles, wood, metal, and plastic), and properly break them down. This meant no toy sent to them would end up in the landfill.
We had plenty of toys that ended up broken because of general use through our toy library and we knew members had the same problem in their own homes.
We were excited to get started.
The box was set up at our toy library and we notified our members of it’s existence. Our box was filled up fairly quickly. Members were happy to have the resource!
The box was brought in and weighed. We diverted 32 lbs of toys from the landfill! WOW!
We are currently looking into possibly fundraising for another box. The cost for the shipping and recycling is fairly reasonable, but also something that cuts into our very small budget, so we are hoping there is continued support for getting another box in the near future.
At first glance, it might seem strange to hear one of the founders of the Minneapolis Toy Library promoting the idea of having LESS toys to play with, but hear me out. You may come to agree that more isn’t necessarily better.
- Reclaim your Floors (and your Sanity!)
Do you ever feel as though you’ve spent the entire day picking things up off the floor? That’s because you probably have! Kids are masters at getting things OUT to play with, but when it comes to packing them away again, let’s just say it’s a work-in-progress. Having less things available for kids to throw on the floor is an effective way of keeping the house in a manageable state, not to mention that stepping on toys can really hurt!
- Reduce Clutter / Reduce Stress
A cluttered house is a cluttered mind. Ever found yourself pondering more options for storing toys? Our kids acquire SO much in their short lives. According to a UCLA study, American kids own 40% of the worlds’ toys, despite the fact that only 3.1% of the world’s children live here! And it’s our job to try to store it all! It’s no wonder that “women who are bothered by their household clutter show increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Men (in this study) were unaffected.” So cut yourself a break and give decluttering a go.
3. Promote Creativity
With less toys competing for their attention, kids are not as likely to feel overwhelmed by so much choice. They are forced to become more resourceful and more creative. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all. If they suddenly need something they don’t have, they might consider making it out of household materials like a cardboard box. Reducing the number of toys in our house has led to more craft projects, hours of drawing coloring, dress-up games, and even imaginary play with no materials at all! Of course these skills can be age-dependent, but babies might enjoy getting to know some humble household materials, too.
- Keep Track of your Borrowed Toys
Bringing home a bunch of new toys from the Minneapolis Toy Library once or twice a month can be super exciting!! But turning the house upside down on a Friday night before a lending event, looking for all the missing pieces can really take the fun out of the experience. Having less toys out at one time can make managing your borrowed toys a lot less stressful and a lot more enjoyable for everyone.
- Support your Local Toy Library
With less toys in the house, you also might find that you rely on the toy library more. Exchange your toys every two weeks if you like, to keep the materials rotating. Check-out our seasonal toys without storing them at home all year long.
And as for the surplus of toys you have gathered up from around the house? Donate them to the toy library, and if you find that you miss them, come check them out again! I like to think of it as a place to store my daughter’s treasured toys until we need them again. Only, instead of sitting in the cupboard taking up precious real estate, they are being loved and adored by other families in the community. Win-win!
So what do you say? Are you willing to reclaim your space and time?
Share your experiences in the comments below and on our Facebook page and let’s keep this community talking.
As a former educator, I constantly thought about toys and materials for young children. I picked materials that were age appropriate and that also helped to develop important skill sets. If I saw a need for children to work on classification skills I would carefully select materials that would engage these senses. I selected them carefully. One thing I never thought about was the toy companies behind these toys. I knew some of them by name and liked them for their durability and aesthetic nature, but I never learned about the companies missions and what they stood for. Not until recently.
Now, working with the Minneapolis Toy Library, I have learned more about these toy companies. I have a desire to know more about them so I can make an educated decision about the toys that stock our shelves. Sure we don’t have the budget to JUST buy these toys, but when we do have the financial means to purchase toys, we buy from companies we care about.
The following is my list of the top 5 toy companies worth spending a bit of extra money on. I explain my reasoning for each choice below.
We LOVE Green Toys! All of their toys are made from 100% recycled milk jugs. How great is that? There are no glues or nuts and bolts that keep the toys together. It’s completely safe for children. Their line of toys includes vehicles, pretend food play sets, and even books. We have so many of their materials in our inventory and are happy to promote their products. Check out this video to learn more about their recycling process, Recycling video.
HABA makes high quality materials for young children. Not only wood toys, but high quality plush toys and even games. I love that their product line is so extensive without having to sacrifice quality and safety. Their wooden toys have PEFC label (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, PEFC.org), which means that their wooden toys are created utilizing wood from sustainable forests. They are committed to being environmentally friendly toy manufacturers. Thank you HABA!
Hape has a passion for developing toys that invite children to play and learn important skills along the way. Their wooden toys are made from bamboo. This material is anti-bacterial in nature, water resistant, and is grown in abundance around the world. It is very durable, so the toys will last for a long time! I love their passion for creating appropriate, inviting, and educational toys for young children.
Tegu builds those beautiful wooden blocks that have the hidden magnet inside. They are aesthetically pleasing to the eye and feel great in the palm of your hand. OH, and they are so much fun to create and build with. This company is based out of Honduras and was founded by two brothers. They believe in creating a positive social impact on the people who work for the company and the neighborhood where they create their toys. The wood they use is forested responsibly and if for some strange reason the blocks become unusable (maybe a dog got ahold of some?) they will pay for the shipping of the pieces and will recycle them for you! Neat!
I’m not sure how I found out about this toy maker, but I’m glad I did! This environmentally friendly toy company creates plant based materials – vs plastic based. They create a wide variety of toys that are made using non toxic paints, wood from rubber trees, and recycled plastics. They want children to create and have fun while also playing with toys that are durable, safe, and beautiful.
I hope this list helped you learn about toy companies that are building a product line for children that is safe, beautiful, and has less of an impact on the environment. These toys will last – they’re worth the money you pay for them!
Former preschool teacher
Check out the video of the MTL on the WCCO Morning Show! Thank you for having us in the studio, Kylie!
November 5th we are collecting toy donations to add to our inventory. A group of volunteers will drive around our community to pick up any toy donations that you might have. A way to make it easier on you!
How to donate?
Send us an email at email@example.com to say that you want to donate toys, include your address, and we will respond with more details about when we will pick them up.
This is all thanks to Thrivent Financial Action Teams, where members of the bank can do something good for the community by putting together teams and giving them a bit of seed money to help fund their efforts! Our little library appreciates their help and support.
Feel free to ask your neighbors or coworkers if they’d like to donate. We take the work out of having to bring these donations to a secondhand store or the like, we will come to you!
Have you checked out Connectagons from our collection?
Photo credit: http://www.hearthsong.com
They are such a fun and open ended toy for children of all ages. 4 and 5 year olds will enjoy building and creating. They offer sets that are themed, such as an under the sea collection or Connectagons that are in the shape of butterflies. However, my 14 month old found a way to use them too! I recycled a plastic peanut container for her to drop them into. If you want to try it at your house it’s quite simple.
1 – find an empty plastic container with a lid that is made of soft plastic that can be cut with a kitchen knife
2 – cut a slit in the top. I used the shape of a Connectagon to see how big I wanted it to be
3 – cut a piece out of the bottom of the container. Big enough for that piece to fall out or for your child’s hand to grab it
4 – cover any rougher cut edges with tape
5 – find a place to tape it to a wall, chair leg, or just leave it on the floor. I found my daughter was frustrated with it when it was on the floor, because it just fell over. I taped it to the end of our wall with a LONG piece of packaging tape.
6 – keep a small bowl or basket of your Connectagons nearby.
(You could also cut a circle for balls to be dropped into. If you have a couple of containers you could have one for a small ball and one for a bigger ball.)
This is near our kitchen where I often am desperately trying to find activities to occupy her while I’m making dinner!
We have finally acquired a space for our toy library. Beginning with our toy lending events on August 18th and August 20th, we will now be at Richfield Lutheran Church, 8 W 60th Street, Minneapolis. Our entrance is on 60th and closest to Nicollet. We will have signs on the door. There is a parking lot across the street for the church that you can use. The room is down one flight of stairs (you can leave your strollers in the entryway or carry them down). The room is spacious and carpeted. Our intention is that your child(ren) will feel comfortable to explore the space.
Here are some pictures of the day we moved in. We were lucky enough to have the youth group help us move and organize the toys. After a couple more days of work, it should be cleared out and ready to go!
If you’re interested in becoming a member, please check out our membership page for more information. We can fill out your membership form at the event. We look forward to seeing you!
~Rebecca, Molly, and Rosie