Learning by playing: BU launches toy library

Toy Library For immediate release: Jan. 19, 2011

BLOOMSBURG — Students and faculty at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania have a new resource to support and enhance learning – the BU Toy Library.

The brainchild of Mary Katherine Duncan, associate professor of psychology, the toy library offers hundreds of toys, games and puzzles designed to teach children with different abilities and styles of learning. Housed in the Warren Student Services Center’s SOLVE volunteer office, the library currently is available to the campus community for use in volunteer work, service learning, internships and practicums, teaching and clinical work.

While few toy libraries exist in the United States, Duncan said the concept is not new. The first toy lending library was established in the 1930s during the Great Depression and, since the 1970s, toy lending libraries, known as “lekoteks,” have been established in more than 30 countries. In 1984, the USA Toy Library Association was formed to promote the learning value of play, inspire the creation of toy libraries and serve as a resource for parents and professionals.

The BU Toy Library’s resources include art supplies, classic games and toys, trains and vehicle sets, magnetic dress-up and activities, wooden puzzles, blocks, lacing activities, puppets, dollhouses and sets of magic, coin and card tricks. BU students and faculty can use the toys with all age groups in projects as diverse as teaching skills to a child with autism, learning to conduct forensic interviews with children who have been abused and helping an elderly stroke victim regain coordination. In addition, students enrolled in Duncan’s upper-division psychology courses during fall 2010 helped create a children’s health reference library, which includes more than 100 books on physical and psychological conditions that affect children and their loved ones.

“Toys, books and other play resources housed in the BU Toy Library have been selected, not collected,” Duncan said.

The toy library is supported by internal grants from the BU Teaching and Learning Enhancement (TALE) Center Teacher-Scholar Award and the College of Liberal Arts’ Curriculum Enhancement Fund.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 9,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.