Getting To Know You...

Welcome to the last instalment of our "Getting to know you..." series. So far we've looked at resource and referral agencies, child care agencies and organizations and daycare licensing offices and child care agencies. Our focus this issue is Family Resource Centres & Toy Libraries.


Family resource centres offer parents a wide range of programs specifically designed to meet the needs of the community they serve. Often found in libraries, churches, hospitals, community centres, local colleges or universities, and/or military bases, they provide:

    * Parenting courses
    * Drop-in programs, particularly useful for home daycare providers and parents who work part-time, as a place to meet other parents and providers with whom they can talk about the ins and outs of parenthood without feeling guilty or intimidated
    * Guest speakers
    * Pamphlets
    * Bulletin boards
    * And an extensive resource library containing a slew of parenting and children's books.

Toy Libraries

But it is the toy library that is valuable to parents and caregivers. "A toy library can be one of the earliest group situations available to parents and caregivers of young children." notes the Canadian Association of Toy Libraries and Parent Resource Centres (TLRC Canada), in their book, TOY LIBRARIES: How To Start and Maintain a Toy Library in Your Community. "Toys are a powerful tool for influencing children and informing adults.... Toys provide a means of helping young children to acquire skills, while educating adults about developmental. aspects of play and quality of toys."

As the word 'library' implies, family resource centre members can borrow toys for up to a month at a time in some cases. "It provides access to an array of toys and play materials that might otherwise not be easily available." says the TLRC. Big-ticket items like climbers, kitchen appliances such as play stoves, and refrigerators, and riding toys are often available on loan. Children learn so much from these toys as they interact with their peers, use there imagination, build vocabulary and strengthen their large muscles. Most toy libraries do charge a small membership fee, but it is well worth cost when you consider the price of purchasing these items outright.

Diverse Programs

Each family resource centre is unique in its programming offering on or any number of the following:

    * Parenting courses developed to meet the needs of the individual communities and conducted by a variety of professionals, from public health nurses to nutritionists, and from social workers to crisis counsellors.
    * Mobile units equipped with the same resources available at any centre often service rural areas.
    * Drop-in programs and playgroups which may be as structured as workshops or seminars, or as simple coffee clacks where the exchange of information or sharing of ideas is less formal.
    * Some centres offer a wide range of child care resource and referral services in addition to their toy and resource libraries, while others take their services out to the public, conducting lunch hour seminars for private and government businesses.
    * Still others are open Saturdays or run after-hour workshops to accommodate working parents.
    * Then there are those centres that produce their own television workshops, workshop materials, booklets or brochures according to community needs. And of course, the list goes on.

Like any child care program, family resource programs depend heavily on funding. Membership fees make up a small percentage of the overall operating costs associated with staffing, equipping and programming. But that does not, however, take anything away from what services a small center provides in comparison to that of a larger center.

In the words of Jane Hewes, a Director of TLRC Canada, "What makes parenting easier is a sense of community. Family resource programs create an opportunity for community, for people who share similar concerns and challenges to come together In naturally supportive ways." Seeing and hearing other parents who share the same concerns as we do helps us to realize that 'we are doing the best we can. But it alas, it helps us to learn a few new tricks that just might, when all is said and done, make our lives just a little bit easier.

To locate a family resource program or toy library in your area consult the yellow pages of your phone book under Child Care, Daycare, or Family Services, or contact your local Department of Human or Social Services.

You may also contact the following:

In Canada
TLRC Canada
205-120 Holland Ave.
Ottawa, Ontario K1Y OX6
(613) 728-3307

In the U.S.:
U.S. Toy Library Association
2530 Crawford Avenue
Suite 111
Evanston, IL 60201