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July 12, 2022

Policies connected by toys

Strolling through Edinburgh’s newest ‘retail experience’ – St James Quarter – it’s clear that our obsession with buying ‘stuff’ is undiminished which makes one wonder whether within the Scottish Government there isn’t some cognitive dissonance at play. On the one hand legislation to establish a circular economy is planned while on the other the national economic strategy is predicated on everyone continuing to buy stuff we really don’t need. As ever it’s a community response, this time from Govan, that exemplifies how to address the combined complexity of building a circular economy, building community wealth and the cost of living crisis.


A new toy library in Glasgow hopes to help families cope with the cost of living crisis while encouraging people to re-use rather than throw away old playthings.

The project in Govan has about 700 games and toys which can be rented by children ranging from toddlers through to pre-teens.

The Toy Library has an £8 monthly subscription, but also offers free membership to some lower-income families who may be struggling due to the effects of the pandemic and the increased cost of living.

The scheme was set up by social enterprise Make Do and Grow.

Managing director Kaytie Lillie hopes the library will “connect families” while making people aware that “re-used doesn’t mean second best” when it comes to toys.

Govan includes some of the most deprived neighbourhoods in Scotland, and Kaytie said families were struggling even more than before due to the cost of living crisis.

She said she wants to make sure that parents don’t have “the horrific choice of having something for their child or having food on the table”.

She is keen to promote good-quality toys for children who may not have access to them.

Kaytie believes the toy library can help families save space and reduce their carbon footprint, while also saving money.

The Toy Library was developed over the past year, with the help of the community and Together For Childhood, where families can access food provision as well as toys.

Many of the toys came from donations, with families giving feedback to the library about the type of toys they were looking for.

The library operates on an online booking system, which aims to make it easy and accessible for children to select which toys they would like.

Children are allowed to take home up to four toys each month. Kaytie believes this will help struggling families save money and also benefit the children’s development.

Many of the volunteers at The Toy Library are parents and members of the local community.

Gosia Dabrowska, a local mum, had been a regular Make Do and Grow user and is now the co-ordinator at the library.

She said she wanted to support families who were struggling.

“I knew they were going to have really good quality toys that would actually have an impact on these children that may last a lifetime, because the children here don’t have the access to very good quality resources,” she said.

“The parents, as hard as they may try, they may not be able to deliver.

“That’s where we make a real impact, that’s where we create an environment where the children can access really good quality toys.”

Gosia wants to create a safe space for both children and parents, adding: “I am here for them (the parents) as much as I am here for their children.”

Kieran and Christine McMahon feel the library will help families with the cost of living

The organisation hopes the renting system will give the children access to toys they may never have had before.

Local families have been signing up to the scheme since its launch earlier this month.

Kieran and Christine McMahon have taken out a membership for their daughter after hearing about the library through a friend.

“It’s the concept I like… getting kids to value the toys, teach them things. I think it’s really good. The cost of living comes into it as well,” says Kieran.

Christine added: “We’re paying £8 a month and you’re getting four toys, it’s insane.

“They’re learning about recycling and they’re not going to think they can just go to the shop and just buy it. You’re teaching them.”