Learning through play with Toy Libraries Malaysia

The initiative looks to give underprivileged children access to toys.

Datin PH Wong of Toy Libraries Malaysia wants to make sure children from all backgrounds have access to toys and a space to play — Photo by Aizyl Azlee

Playing is an important part of learning for children, and it will influence the type of person a child grows up to become.

However, toys are not as accessible as you might think. Which is why non-governmental organisation Toy Libraries Malaysia has been working to put toys in the hands of underprivileged children all over the country.

“It is in these early years that they are by instinct curious and excited to explore, we want to support a child’s right to play regardless of social background.” says Datin PH Wong.

Wong is the President and Chief Play Advocate of Toy Libraries Malaysia and Board Member for Professional Quality of the Early Childhood Care and Education Council.

Prior to setting up Toy Libraries Malaysia officially, she was active in setting up toy libraries across the country with other organisations, making them come to life in children’s learning centres, national schools, and Orang Asli communities.

These days, with Toy Libraries Malaysia, she has been working on setting up more toy libraries in underprivileged neighbourhoods, public libraries and healthcare centres.

And now, the newest addition is the first time a toy library has been built within an urban low-cost housing community.

The first low-cost housing complex toy library

Last October saw a toy library built at Apartment Idaman, Damansara Damai, Selangor, initiated by Toy Libraries Malaysia and funded by Hong Leong Foundation Malaysia.

The joint collaboration saw the coming together of Toy Libraries Malaysia, social enterprise Epic Communities, public volunteers, Nippon Paint, and last but not least the Joint Management Body (JMB) of Apartment Idaman itself.

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The toy library built at Apartment Idaman — Photo by Ricci Wong

“It has been encouraging to work with a community that is established and willing to take ownership of their own neighbourhood,” says Wong.

She explains that this specific community caught the NGO’s attention with their display of resilience that have garnered awards.

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Led by Epic Communities, the toy library was built by Apartment Idaman residents themselves with the help of volunteers — Photo by Ricci Wong

The residents’ association of Apartment Idaman and its JMB have spent a lot of time and effort into addressing issues that arise in their community. Most notably for eradicating dengue cases within one year of being one of the top dengue hotspots in the city of Petaling Jaya, and addressing its frequent fire incidents by training housewives to fight fires as part of their Fire Squad.

A nucleus for empowerment programmes

On top of being a place that children can go to borrow toys, Toy Libraries Malaysia aims to make this a safe space outside of homes to play and where intergenerational activities can take place.

Wong says that the space would help with engaging mothers, and provide them access to skills training programmes such as becoming certified babysitters.

“I’ve heard of housewives leaving their children at home alone, while they go out to run their errands. Maybe with proper options for babysitters among their neighbours, children can be kept in constant supervision,” she says.

Datin PH Wong hopes the toy library will also bring adults together to strengthen community ties — Photo by Aizyl Azlee

Another type of programme that Toy Libraries Malaysia has in mind is providing creative workshops for repurposing and upcycling toys, where the children are trained to fix, create, and build their own toys.

“We are also training adults, especially mothers in the community, to be able to manage the space on their own,” Wong adds, explaining that one of the main goals is to empower the community to run the library themselves.

If you have toys to donate, here is a list of drop-off points that are affiliated with Toy Libraries Malaysia — Photo by Aizyl Azlee

Bridging the gap between young and old

“It’s a space where adults and children can come together, where we encourage neighbours to watch over each other,” Wong says.

“Through play, there is a natural connection that happens between young children and adults, and even any age group in general. We want to see that connection again. Our hope is to see the toy library create the safe space for exploration and learning.”

If you have toys to donate for distribution to toy libraries, here is a list of drop-off points affiliated with Toy Libraries Malaysia. If you would like to get in touch, check out the Toy Libraries Malaysia Facebook page.

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