Walthamstow Toy Library director Helen Crockford on her mission to ensure all children have access to high-quality educational toys
When my children were small I often felt that our two-up, two-down house was drowning in multi-coloured plastic play things.
Then we discovered Walthamstow Toy Library and Play Centre – and our lives changed. Our weekly visits to the charity, based at Comely Bank Community Clinic, were an experience that we all looked forward to. The boys loved choosing new toys to take home and we all enjoyed the social aspect of meeting friends, making new friends, and being part of a community.
There were financial and practical benefits too; borrowing toys is cheaper than buying them and my living room no longer looked like Hamley’s on Christmas Eve. But it was also the environmental benefits that felt really important to me.
My boys’ generation is growing up keenly aware of sustainable living; images of oceans awash with plastic pollution, habitat loss and the consequences of climate change. Last year the UK toy industry generated £3.3billion, contributing to the thousands of tonnes of plastic waste that ends up in landfill and oceans.
Now, as director of Walthamstow Toy Library, I am delighted to have been accepted on to the Community Business Trade Up Programme run by the School for Social Entrepreneurs, in partnership with charity funder Power to Change. This nine-month learning programme and ‘match trading’ grant of up to £10,000 will enable us to expand our toy loaning offer, meaning more families can experience the benefits that my own family had.
Match trading is a new type of funding for socially-led, environmentally conscious organisations. It matches an increase in sales pound-for-pound, encouraging social entrepreneurs to find ways to earn more money, which they then use to help more people and reduce the impact on the environment.
Our exciting plans include pop-up mobile libraries, evening and weekend opening hours, home deliveries and collections. Our provision is currently aimed at under-fives, but we’d like to widen this for children up to the age of eleven. We welcome toy donations and community involvement, so if you’d like to support us with this project, please get in touch!