Playtime isn’t a privilege. Why our children need more toys

Having toys shouldn’t be a luxury. Access to varied and structured play is an important learning experience that shapes a child’s development. But these toys come at a cost – a high one considering how soon children outgrow them or get bored. For those who can’t afford them, their children are denied a fundamental building block in their education. But what if the toys could be borrowed instead of bought? This is the question Marie van Schalkwyk is answering with a toy library that’s stocked with hundreds of options for playing and learning.

“I started the toy library because I realised that more than 84 percent of children under the age of six don’t have any access to structured early childhood development,” Van Schalkwyk says. Compared to basic needs, having a variety of toys seems like a privilege. But it is a privilege that every child no matter their background deserves. “That’s the way a child learns,” she adds. At the toy library, kids in Rustenburg can come in for monthly or weekly play sessions where they are exposed to new and exciting playthings, from puzzles, games and blocks to balls and mini bikes. The community resource fulfils the kids’ need for emotional support by providing a space for them to interact with each other and receive encouragement from Van Schalkwyk.

As the kids move from one toy to another, their curiosity is fueled and their minds are stimulated. A simple commitment to play time is ensuring holistic support for them. “I would never trade the work I do for anything,” Van Schalkwyk says. Growth continues throughout a lifetime, but a lack of resources shouldn’t stifle a child’s potential in their formative years. By pooling a multitude of toys, the centre guarantees children a headstart to a lifetime of learning and fun.