Bringing back toys

During my 28-year career in public libraries, I have seen children’s spaces evolve from no toys whatsoever, to some puzzles and games, to a full array of materials that promote creative and interactive play. We all know that play is the work of childhood (thank you, Mr. Rogers!) and the numerous benefits of toy-based learning: cause and effect, problem solving, imagination, fine and gross motor skill development, and creativity. Vital social emotional skills – sharing, communication, compromising, and making new friends – are also cultivated. Just as story times and early literacy programming inspire a love of reading, toys inspire a love of learning.

As our libraries gradually resume pre-pandemic services, it is a delight to see the return of toys in children’s spaces. Larger furnishings such as drawing/writing stations, kitchens, puppet theaters, dollhouses, train and LEGO tables are moving back in. Free play vehicles, blocks, multi-cultural dolls, and puzzles are available in bins. Hopscotch is being played on liquid floor tiles. Kids and their caregivers are lingering after story times to play and learn together.

We have ramped up our toy cleaning since March, 2020 with new sanitizing products and enhanced procedures. While this adds to the workload of frontline staff, the energy of the library as a place for discovery makes it all worthwhile.

How are you doing with the reintroduction of toys and early learning opportunities? I’m curious to hear!


  1. Heather

    Can I ask what your enhanced sanitizing procedures look like and what products you are using? Our department is interested in bringing our toys back to our play space but all of the recommended procedures we have found in our research refers to daycare centers that have the same group of children sharing toys all day long. Those recommendations mention sanitizing after a toy has entered a child’s mouth but we are concerned we’ll miss seeing that or that we would be sanitizing so much that the toys would hardly be available for use in-between cleanings.

  2. Elizabeth

    I was going to ask the same question.
    We are slowly reintroducing our toys but want to make sure we do this properly.
    Cleaning each and every magna tile a couple times a day is daunting!
    We have a bucket for toys that went into the mouth, but are looking for a better cleaning system, other than using Clorox wipes at the end of each day. Thank you!

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