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Dannevirke community Toy Library

two women standing in front of the Dannevirke Toy Library sign

With the cost of everything skyrocketing, how do you keep young children affordably amused? Dannevirke community Toy Library has been a go-to resource for the community for 35 years, and it’s cemented a place in the hearts of Tararua’s children. 

Toy libraries have been delighting families across the world since the mid 1930s, and New Zealand finally opened its first one in 1974, in Hamilton. There are now over 200 toy libraries across New Zealand. The Dannevirke Community Toy library has been operating since 1983, and toy librarian and committee secretary Sandy Thorstensen says it’s been a fantastic resource for the Dannevirke community.

When the Carnegie Centre in Allardice Street was designated an earthquake-prone building, Sandy and the Toy Library committee knew they had to move. It took them nearly

2 shelves and rows of children's toys available to hire
Toys for hire at Dannevirke Toy Library

a year, but they found the perfect location in a large, recently vacated room at the AMP Wai Splash indoor pool complex on York Street.

“It’s on a no-exit street, so it’s a lot safer for kids visiting, and there’s plenty of parking. It’s double the size of our old room, so we’re able to display our toys so much better. People are always surprised to see what we’ve got,” says Sandy.

The toy library applied to Eastern & Central Community Trust for operational funds to go towards paying the rent. “Having that funding allows us to stay in this location, which is absolutely perfect for us. If you ask many kids in the community, they know where we are, because they’ve been to the pool and have seen the signs as they go past our door. Some of the parents we talked to at a recent local event didn’t know where we were, but their children did,” she says.

With a list of almost 500 toys, Sandy says the Dannevirke Toy Library is one of the smaller ones in New Zealand, but it offers up a good range of

group of men standing behind a sign for the Dannevirke MenzShed with repaired toys in front
Dannevirke MenzShed helping repair items for the Toy Library

toys – from old classics like the Step2 rollercoaster and Cosy Coupe cars to puzzles and games that can stretch the minds of all the family. Using the Toy Library means less waste and less clutter at home. It’s also an environmentally friendly option for families that is very cost effective as well.

With all the toys now loaded on MiBase, a cloud-based Toy Library system, Sandy can issue and return toys quickly and easily. “MiBase makes completing our annual stocktake of the toys so easy compared with our old paper-based system” she says.

They also tap into the generosity of the community when repairs need doing. “When the wheels on the rollercoaster were falling apart, the Dannevirke Menz Shed stepped up and created new hand-turned wheels and fitted them. It will be going strong for a few more years yet, thanks to the lovely Menz Shed men. Having contacts like that across the community is wonderful,” Sandy says.

The number of families accessing the toy library is steady at around 35, and Sandy says they’ve had several new members join in recent weeks. “We have families, caregivers, in-home educarers and grandparents as members. It means they’ve got access to a broad range of different toys for when they’ve got a house full of kids. It’s a cost-effective way to keep the boredom at bay, and people can come and swap their toys weekly or fortnightly, whichever suits them best.”

She says the toy library is her passion, and tries to make it a welcoming space for everyone. “We’re open on Wednesday afternoons, and Thursday and Friday mornings, during term time, and we’re always keen to welcome new members. It really is a lot of fun.”

Find out more about New Zealand’s toy libraries here.