Toy Library conference a taste of freedom

Young Emre Vollweiler-Kelly patiently awaits the return of his mother.
Elise Vollweiler

Young Emre Vollweiler-Kelly patiently awaits the return of his mother.

When I jubilantly announced to my partner late last year that I would be attending the national Toy Library Conference in mid-2017, his response was, "Really! Will it be, like, a party thing?"

"No!" I scoffed. "It'll be attended by retirees and mothers who have never been away from their kids before. So… oh. Maybe!"

In late July, the glorious day finally arrived, and I gathered my children in my arms.

"I'll see you in two sleeps! I'll miss you!" I gushed, while they squirmed away with complete indifference to run off and play with their friends. I choose to believe that they are very well-adjusted.

Four of us from the Motueka committee boarded the Auckland-bound plane. It was the second conference for our Toy Librarian, Mary, but Maluz, Sarah and I were rookies who were each also spending a night away from our youngest kids for the first time.

We babbled excitedly to each other about how ridiculously easy it was to fly without the human equivalent of a spirited seal pup on our laps. That book I brought, we marveled. I'm actually reading it! The snacks! I don't have to share them! The mid-flight cup of tea! I can sip it at my leisure! With the lid off!

The conference itself is generally held biennially in a different town around the country, and is a wonderful blur of information and education. We learned about volunteer trends, fundraising opportunities and the Toy Hall of Fame (think Lego, Play Doh, Hoola Hoops and Tonka Trucks). We extended our vocabularies – divergent play; hippocampus, gross motor exploration.

We consolidated, again and again, the importance of play in child development - socially, physically, cognitively and emotionally, which in turn reinforced the value of toy libraries in our communities.

After many months of careful budgeting, the Motueka District Toy Library also had the resources to buy a spate of new toys from the attending distributors. It's a near-perfect scenario – the opportunity to test and purchase dozens of marvellous toys, without having to part with a cent of your own money to do it.

The party atmosphere never quite arrived – we were the only delegation to dress up for the Party in the Pacific dinner - but the weekend as a whole was entertaining and slickly organised, and I'm sure the coordinators will be sending out our Best Dressed prizes any day now.

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By Sunday afternoon we had taken screeds of notes, generated plenty of new ideas for our own facility, and, it has to be said, the novelty of child-free time was starting to wear thin. It was a relief to touch down in Nelson that evening, and I was gratified to see my partner arrive at the airport with our beautiful boys snoring softly in their car seats.

I kept the boys home from kindy the next day – we had some playing to do, after all.

Motueka, Golden Bay, Mapua, Richmond Waimea, Stoke, Nelson, Wakefield, Tapawera and Murchison each have a community toy library. Visit www.toylibrary.co.nz for more information about your local library's membership costs and opening hours.

 - Stuff

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