June 16, 2006

Toy ‘library’ worth checking out

Featured Image

Preston Edmonson, right, checks out a toy from the new toy lending library as his mother, Teri, and brother, Aaron, look on.
Photo by Dana Johnson

Toy ‘library’ worth checking out

A bright, delighted smile spreads across 14-year-old Preston Edmonson's face as he plays with a toy accordion. A well-rounded teenager, Preston has Down syndrome and is one of many individuals enjoying a new program at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Made possible by a $12,500 gift from the Junior League of Nashville, the Toy Lending Library is a wonderland of colorful puzzles, toy guitars, interactive learning books and more. Located in the Junior League Family Resource Center, the toy library serves as a resource for parents of children with special needs, allowing them to try out toys that stimulate development and speed learning before purchasing them for their children.

The library also gives children and teenagers with special needs and chronic illnesses access to fun and educational toys.

“We're very fortunate to have such a generous community and an organization like the Junior League of Nashville to support us in this initiative. Our mission is to serve all children and families,” said Janet Cross, director of the Child Life and Family Resource Center. “This project will help provide unique opportunities for children with disabilities and special needs.”

After the mother of a child with autism came to the Family Resource Center with the idea of a toy library, the department — with the toy library at Cincinnati Children's Hospital as a model — put together a development team for the project. Occupational and physical therapists, Child Life specialists, educators, graduate students and parents of children with special needs researched and purchased appropriate toys.

“I think it's a wonderful resource. I don't know that there's ever been anything like this before,” said Teri Edmonson, Preston's mother and one of the parents on the development team.

In the Family Resource Center, parents and children can browse through color-coded binders that catalogue, among others, toys that stimulate the imagination, aid in motor skill growth and facilitate language development.

The toys are also organized according to age to provide parents with an idea of which toy is most appropriate. After filling out membership and liability forms and paying a one-time $5 fee, families can check out up to three toys for three weeks. Instructions on how to play with the toy, the benefits of the toy and information on where it can be purchased go home with every family.