Play is a universal human right for all children. It fosters healthy brain development and supports children’s physical growth and emotional well-being. But for millions of children this right is impinged upon by war, poverty, violence and illness. In response to that, WWO developed the Toy Library program as a resource for children and families at risk as well as children living in institutions. WWO implements the Toy Library program in three countries – Bulgaria, Haiti, and Vietnam.
At the base of the Toy Library program is the concept of play as a universal method of communication and a resource supporting child development and prevention of abandonment. The Toy Library supports the development of a healthy attachment between the child and the caregiver. At the same time, it serves as a resource for the caregiver to learn about child development. Each toy comes with a reference card with information about the five domains of child development and game ideas.
The Toy Library is used as:
– Resource for spontaneous or guided play in pairs
– Instrument for therapy, used by specialists
– Resource for play at home
– Resource for communication in play groups and workshops for children and parents
– Mobile service in remote and isolated locations
A WWO Toy Library is packed full of colorful, wooden toys, compliant with the highest safety standards, which support child development in five domains – gross motor, fine motor, communication, cognition, and socio-emotional development. A Toy Library is a safe space where children can use their imagination and explore their own intrinsic desire for play. A Toy Librarian trained by WWO manages each Toy Library.
The WWO Toy Libraries in Bulgaria were initially designed as a resource to support and complement the One-to-one Granny program implemented in cooperation with O.A. Milosardie in homes for children throughout the country.
The first WWO Toy Library was launched in 2009 at the home for children in Debelets, serving children ages 0-3. Since then, the program has spread not only to residential care institutions but also to vulnerable communities, where it became recognized as an important and desired resource for children and families. In partnership with state institutions, family counseling centers, and service providers, the Toy Libraries reached 2400 children and 900 caregivers in 2014.
Currently the Toy Library program is implemented in 19 partner organizations in Debelets, Pazardzhik, Pleven, Targovishte, Burgas, Varna, Shumen, Novi Pazar, and Veliki Preslav.