All aboard the toy-go-round

12 November 2002

Borrow a set of toys for your children, play with them for a whole month, return them in good condition, and then take another set home. You can do this all over again, thanks to toy libraries in several provinces established by the African Self-Help Association (ASHA).

South Africa has a total of 90 toy libraries located in the Eastern Cape, North West, Gauteng and the Free State. And the quest to set up more libraries in the country is on, according to Cynthia Morrison, Gauteng chair of the Toy Library Association of South Africa.

Morrison has been elected president of the International Toy Library Association which is represented by 42 countries, at the same time making the country the host of the International Toy Library Conference in April 2005.

Johannesburg boasts nine of the toy libraries: three in Soweto and others in Craighall, Rivonia, Rossetenville, Eldorado Park, Braamfontein and the Inner City Toy Library in Joubert Park.

Complex creations from waste
And together with the City of Johannesburg Region 9 Social Services’ “child-friendly city initiative”, ASHA is showcasing the libraries, alongside an exhibition of ingenious toys made from waste at MuseuMAfricA in the Newtown Cultural Precinct. The exhibition is displaying some of the most complex creations made purely from recycled waste products like cardboards, paper and plastic.

The toys are arranged in such a way as to also enlighten the visitor about various stimulation roles each set of toys has on the growth of a child. A whole playroom is made completely from the toys, for instance. It includes chairs that can seat a full 80kg adult without breaking.

Some toys are grouped thematically around stimulation growth points like mathematics, while others improve a child’s perception, enhance a sense of musical experience, and stimulate problem-solving as well as literacy.

From a distance, the toys look like normal commercial toys, until you make out the material used to construct them.

As part of the ‘whole child’ experience at the museum, day-care minders can attend workshops on anything ranging from stimulating children to how they can economise by developing skills through toys and making toys themselves.

Portia Ngwenya and Lorraine Ntsoane run the workshops. Ngwenya has been making toys for more than seven years and says her interest in the practical aspects of toy-making is unrivalled by anything in the world. “I want to turn toy-making into a small business, so I can empower poor day care teachers as well as make money for myself.”

Ngwenya’s creations have been recognised in place as far and wide as Texas, US, where a local hospital honoured her with a certificate after exhibiting some of her toys.

The Toys from Waste exhibition runs until 24 November. Entrance is R7 for adults and R2 for children and students.

Source: Johannesburg web site