At the heart of the Toy Library is the idea of play as a universal way of communication and as a resource to support children’s development. Toy libraries exist around the world and vary in size, mode of operation, staff and funding. The first of its kind in the world appeared in the United States in 1935, and the first in Europe was established in Denmark in 1959.
Toy libraries in Bulgaria
The model was introduced in Bulgaria by WWO and it is part of the Element of Play®. The first Toy library in Bulgaria opened its doors in 2009 in support and supplement of the Grandma’s Grandson program, in the Home for medical and social care for children from 0 to 3 years in the town of Debelets under a pilot project of WWO. The following year, the Foundation established toy libraries at the DMSGD in Burgas, Varna, Vratsa, Pleven, Shumen, Ruse, Pazardzhik and Targovishte. Since 2009, the Foundation has been developing toy libraries in various places in Bulgaria – in marginalized communities, community centers, kindergartens, social service centers, hospitals, specialized centers for children and families, refugee centers and residential services for children and youth.
Mobile library of toys starts for the first time in the village of Davidovo, municipality of Targovishte under the project “Mobile Approach Toy Library” in 2009. Then several times a week a project team travels to the village with bags of toys, and their arrival brings joy and noise in the village. It is played outdoors or in the building of the community center “Svetlina” , which first opened its doors to children. There is the first open corner for reading and playing – a model of working with children and families in small towns where there are no RDR services. It was created entirely with the financial support of WWO in 2017 and continues to operate today.
The Toy library is used as:
– Resource for spontaneous or directed play in pairs
– Therapy tool used by specialists
– Resource for playing at home by borrowing a toy
– Resource for communication in playgroups and workshops for children and parents
– Mobile service in remote and isolated settlements
Child Development Benefits from the Toy Library Program
• GENERAL MOTORICS
Walking, balancing, running, throwing and catching a ball from a distance
• FINE MOTORICS
Handles objects of different sizes, three and five fingers
Language and speech, prepositions, following instructions, creativity, role-playing games, rhythm, asking questions, vocabulary
• SOCIO-EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
positive interaction, initiative, cooperation and cooperative, toy sharing, tolerance, consistency
• COGNITIVE / COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT
Counting, simple math, learning colors and shapes, size, location, memory, observation, concentration
Program resources All of our toy libraries are equipped with carefully selected colorful, wooden toys that meet the highest safety standards and support children’s development in five main areas – general motor skills. , fine motor skills, communication, knowledge and socio-emotional development. A toy library provides a safe space where children have the opportunity to develop their imagination and indulge in their innate desire to play. Each library is cared for by a “librarian” trained by WWO in the implementation of the program.
Each toy in the library has a developed reference card , which contains important information about the child’s age for which it is appropriate and basic information about the five areas of child development for the respective age. The cards are used by professionals or parents to guide them to appropriate activities in support of child development.
The reference cards are an author’s contribution of WWO Foundation and they are part of the practice in the countries where it operates, incl. and Bulgaria.
Another unique resource of the program in Bulgaria is the training for people who work with the program. People are the heart of this program! They are trained to work directly with children and families, and their training includes approaches to group and individual play. Libraries in Bulgaria are mainly places for play, where children and families can come on certain days and play or participate in various organized activities.
In Bulgaria there are two author’s programs that develop the approach and philosophy of the toy library and they are “Group lessons” and “Let’s learn together”. Their author is Lois Kam Heyman (http://www.listenlovelearn.com/), a speech pathologist and author of the book “The Sound of Hope”. In 2017 and 2018, she personally trained a group of Bulgarian specialists working in toy libraries.