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ERIC Number: ED502370
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Dec
Pages: 76
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 15
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-9053-1475-1
"A Treasure Chest of Service": The Role of Toy Libraries within Play Policy in Wales
Powell, Robat; Seaton, Nia
National Foundation for Educational Research
Since the first toy libraries opened in the 1960s and 1970s to support families of children with special educational needs, they have expanded to serve broader communities. Toy libraries do more than lend toys: they can provide family support services and specialist support to families with children with special educational needs, benefit children's development and encourage and provide creative play opportunities. The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) launched a Play Policy in 2002 and a Play Policy Implementation Plan in 2006. In 2007, the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), in partnership with the National Association of Toy and Leisure Libraries (NATLL)/Play Matters, reviewed the role of toy libraries in Wales. Research was carried out in four phases between January 2007 and March 2007. Discussions with an Advisory Panel of four experts in the area helped to shape the direction of the research and devise research questions. Literature on the subject of play and toy libraries was reviewed to set the work in context. Case-study visits to six toy libraries across Wales provided in-depth and first-hand information about their work. A range of libraries were selected, including voluntary and statutory, mobile and fixed, general, centre-based and specialist. Research demonstrated: (1) The introduction of the Play Policy (WAG, 2002) and Play Policy Implementation Plan (WAG, 2006) were welcomed for the emphasis they placed on the importance of play, adult responsibility for protecting children's play opportunities and the contribution they made to raising the profile of play and the play sector; (2) Discussions leading to the creation of the Implementation Plan were important as they had helped to bring different sectors together to develop a common understanding; (3) Respondents felt that Wales was leading the way in the UK especially in terms of policy; (4) Wales was able to take the lead because of the existence of a strong play sector and national organisation for play, Play Wales, and because of the political will present in the Welsh Assembly Government; (5) Although too soon to measure direct impacts on the number of play opportunities open to children, respondents in the research project felt that the policy and plan had strengthened the play sector and helped to encourage local authorities to adopt a more strategic approach to play; (6) Respondents were optimistic about the future and believed that cross-party support for play would continue; (7) Toy libraries had an important contribution to make to play in Wales in resourcing playworkers, increasing parental awareness of the value of play, providing early experiences of play and as specialist providers; and (8) The profile of toy libraries and awareness of their contribution needed to be raised. Toy libraries' origins (why they are set up and by whom) appears to be a more significant determinant of what services they provide than geographical location. Selected examples of good practice include: (1) Extensive collaboration with other partners and solid partnership skills; (2) Provision of quality resources; (3) Creation of a welcoming and non-threatening service; and (4) Commitment of staff and volunteers. Common challenges include: (1) Insufficient and unsustainable funding; (2) High turnover of staff and short-term contracts; (3) Attracting staff with appropriate skills; (4) Attracting new volunteers; and (5) Addressing common misconceptions about the work of toy libraries. The report recommends that: (1) the Welsh Assembly Government and other funding bodies consider increased financial support to bodies which promote play in Wales and to toy libraries, considering toy libraries as a vehicle for service delivery in future WAG policy initiatives, such as in health and lifelong learning; (2) Children and Young People's Partnerships develop greater awareness of toy libraries within their authority to ensure that they are given consideration in all appropriate funding allocation; (3) Toy libraries should make every effort in conjunction with NATLL/Play Matters to market their services and raise the profile of their work; and (4) Further research be conducted to measure the impact and effectiveness of toy library provision to help toy libraries improve their services and to provide evidence for them to strengthen future funding bids. Six case studies are appended.
National Foundation for Educational Research. The Mere, Upton Park, Slough, Berkshire, SL1 2DQ, UK. Tel: +44-1753-574123; Fax: +44-1753-637280; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Early Childhood Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: National Foundation for Educational Research
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom; United Kingdom (Wales)