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Child’s play: Toy libraries catch on in Indian cities
Published on 20 Jul. 2009 11:38 PM IST
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You’ve heard of book and CD libraries, but now comes toy libraries for young ones. The concept is fast catching on with parents in Indian cities as it provides kids with a learning avenue and is light on the pocket too. And entrepreneurs are cashing in on the trend. Nishant Patel, a Delhi resident, has enrolled his five-year-old daughter Anya at a toy library. “Anya does not like to watch television and buying toys every week is not an option. Children have a very limited attention span,” he said. “They like change, especially when it comes to toys. I found these libraries an ideal world to help her connect with a wider world. Here she can discover new places,” Patel, who is also director of Pratham Educare Private Limited, an educational and counselling centre, told IANS. The idea was conceived in Italy. The toy library issues you a membership card so that your kid plays with toys for free or at fairly low rents, just like other libraries. There are around 11 such toy libraries in India now and more are expected to be launched soon. Some libraries allow children to go and play there while others have online services that arrange for a toy to be delivered home and then to be returned on a specific date. Mumbai-based Tarun Jain was among the first Indians to launch such a toy library, Mind Gym, in 2005, soon after he got his degree from the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad. “The idea to start a toy library struck me when I realised that the expensive toys and games that I bought for my daughter grabbed her attention just for a while,” he said. “Instead of discarding these toys, my wife and I thought of starting a toy library so that children can get a chance to play with a wide range of toys they might not ordinarily get to enjoy or their parents can’t afford to buy,” Jain told IANS. He offers online services and has opened various branches in Bangalore and some Gujarat cities. Jain said toy libraries also teach children to respect other people’s property, especially if you introduce the concept of borrowing and giving back. Added Devendra Desai, founder and managing trustee of Children Toy Foundation: “The variety in educational games and puzzles is amazing and parents simply cannot buy all the games that the child needs.” The foundation is a Mumbai-based NGO that aims to educate children through toys. “The rising price of toys and the lack of storage space in apartments are the reasons for the mushrooming of toy libraries,” Desai said. Gayatri Menon, coordinator for the postgraduate programme in toys and games design at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, is all for the concept, but says there is no government back-up. “The original concept of a toy library was to help underprivileged and specially-abled children come and play with toys without having to buy them. But as of now there are no such government funded toy libraries in India,” she said on phone. But these libraries are not just about toys. They also organise workshops and other activities for children.

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