Hertfordshire Community Foundation has received £5,000 to KIDS to support its Hertfordshire Toy Libraries in Hertford and Watford. The grant will also help the charity make the service accessible to families in other areas including Hitchin and Hemel Hempstead.

Toy libraries work in the same way as a traditional library but instead of books, families are able to borrow toys and equipment. With items ranging from board games to specialist trikes, each item can be accessed by several families multiple times during its lifetime.

Helen Gray, Director of Hertfordshire Community Foundation, said: “Play is such an important part of any child’s development but for those on low incomes or those who need specialist toys or equipment, the costs can sometimes be prohibitive. These toy libraries give families the chance to access a range of toys, including specialist equipment which can be very expensive to buy and not within many families’ limited budgets. It helps them to provide fun, therapeutic and educational experiences for their children without putting themselves under unnecessary financial pressures.”

KIDS HUBS coordinator Shelley Bell said; “We would like to thank HCF for this support. For the past four years KIDS has provided weekly toy library sessions to over 280 families of disabled children in Hertfordshire. The children gain access to resources that improve their wellbeing and behaviour, enhance their sensory focus, or improve their ability to sleep which in turn improves the quality of life for both them and their family.

“One family comes to use the Toy Library on a regular basis and has found it particularly helpful when their child was out of school as this meant the child was able to attend our stay-and-play sessions. The child enjoyed interacting with other children and became more confident. It also gave the parent the opportunity to speak to staff and other parents at the sessions.

“During the time the family has been coming to Toy Library, staff have been able to build up a positive relationship with the parent and child, which has led to the family seeking additional support from the HUB at times. They have been able to find out about other activities and other services that may be relevant for their child’s needs. The parent told us that the child is usually reluctant to leave the house and go to different places, but that they had asked to come to Toy Library after visiting a few times.”  

The weekly toy library sessions at each centre also provide an opportunity for parents to meet and develop a support network, exchanging their ideas, experiences and strategies for coping with their disabled child’s needs and reducing feelings of isolation.

KIDS offers hundreds of families free and impartial support over the phone, by email or face-to-face (including home visits). They can also help families access a range of local services for disabled children and young people including specialist services.

For more information about the Toy Libraries, please visit www.kids.org.uk/hub

For more information about Hertfordshire Community Foundation and available grants, please visit www.hertscf.org.uk