Aug 26, 2023
Kids can play with something new every week thanks to the South Bay Toy Library
Morgan Lepore spends her evenings getting toys ready for parents of local kids ranging from babies to 5-year-olds — counting, sorting, cleaning and checking to assure than all those essential pieces
Morgan Lepore spends her evenings getting toys ready for parents of local kids ranging from babies to 5-year-olds — counting, sorting, cleaning and checking to assure than all those essential pieces are still present.
The Redondo Beach resident has been doing so for the past year and a half, running a free toy exchange program from her garage, an endeavor she dubbed the South Bay Toy Library.
The toy loan program started with Lepore taking note of how fast her then-4-year-old moved on to one new playtime interest after another.
“I realized my daughter was going through toys so quickly,” Lepore said. “She’d play with it for maybe two weeks, then lose interest.”
“Every other month I was going to Goodwill” dropping off toys that had run their course in her home. “I was thinking ‘how many other families could use this stuff,’” Lepore said.
Lepore typically rotates her own kids’ toys, she said.
“I thought, ‘while I’m putting those away, someone else can use them rather than sitting in the garage collecting dust,’” Lepore said.
So, in early 2022 she asked members of a moms’ group on Facebook if they’d be interested in doing a communal toy rotation.
But within the small circle, the same issue of their children quickly growing tired of things was presenting itself.
“It turned into a toy library from there,” Lepore said. “We lent our toys to other families in the community and they’d go on to the next family.”
Now, in a South Bay Toy Library Facebook group with close to 900 members, people can comment on the photo on which five toys they want to check out. Lepore disinfects the items after every use, then bags them up for parents to pick up on certain days.
Participants come from the beach cities, Harbor City, El Segundo, Palos Verdes and even one family near Culver City. But she wants to keep the effort local for the most part, Lepore said, to cultivate a community feel.
More recently, though, she’s been delivering the toys herself while she tries to find a larger space to house the toys and run the library. She keeps track on a spreadsheet who borrowed what and when they’re set to return the stuff.
With interest growing rapidly, Lepore wanted to expand the effort. She recently started accepting toy donations so that she could post photos of new toys to check out once a week, on “Toy Tuesday.”
She started with 200 toys and now has around 700, Lepore said, with as many as 150 checked out at a time. She’s still figuring out liability going forward, she added, but in the meantime includes a thorough description of a toy’s parts on each picture posted.
The mother of two was a developmental therapist before becoming a full-time parent, she said, and uses that expertise to let parents know which skills each toy helps with, like cognitive sensory. Lepore writes notes with the toys explaining what the child will work on with the toy, and people will often ask what items would be best for their baby who isn’t crawling yet, for example.
She’d also tried cycling items through the library for older kids — ages about 7 to 10 — like online coding programs and other science, math, tech and engineering. But they weren’t as popular, Lepore said, because younger kids’ minds are developing faster than those closer to double-digit ages.
“Then it became a thing where my garage was overflowing with so many toys,” Lepore said.
She recently got a storage unit to keep up with the abundance, she said, but is looking for a local community center, public library or other type of space that will let her store the toys and serve as a pick-up and drop-off location. She also hopes to keep the toy library free for people to access, but in this transitional phase, she’s considering a membership fee or donation ask, with a sliding scale depending on what folks can afford.
For now, though, Lepore is committed to her toy library and whatever the future holds. She’s excited to keep growing the South Bay Toy Library to something that could, eventually, even run independently.
“I’m trying to figure out another way to do this,” she said.
Get the latest news delivered daily!News