by Carole Verona
“Play is a child’s job,” said Melissa Delaney-Doliner, 44, owner of the new Giggles & Tickles Toybrary, which opened Oct. 12 in Wyndmoor. “And to do the best job, a child needs the right tools — toys!”
Keeping kids supplied with toys that are appropriate for different stages of their development is a formidable task for parents. It’s expensive. “As a parent, I struggled with that myself,” Melissa admitted. “The turnover for toys is so rapid. A child’s job is to explore a toy, conquer it, figure it out, see how it works and then move on to another one.”
Melissa’s goal in opening the Giggles & Tickles Toybrary is to make it affordable for parents to provide the tools that their children need to play in a fun, educationally rich environment.
The concept of a “toybrary” is based on that on a lending library. Here’s how it works: There are different levels of membership. The basic level (at $96 a year) allows you to borrow one toy per visit. Other levels allow you to borrow more. Melissa offers a three-month trial membership for $36. There is a special membership category for grandparents who only want to borrow toys when the grandkids come to visit.
Each toy may be borrowed for two weeks, then must be renewed or returned. All of the toys are sanitary and safe. “We only stock toys that are easy to clean and disinfect. Before a toy is put back on the lending shelf, it is cleaned and bagged. I only use non-toxic ‘green’ cleaning products,” she stressed.
Melissa started thinking about the concept of a toybrary at least 10 years ago when she was busy working and raising a family. “Just recently, I said ‘I have to do this.’ I decided I was ready for a change, ready to be working directly with kids again, ready to be part of the community. And I wanted the flexibility to spend more time with my family.”
Melissa believes that the price of most toys has gotten out of hand. She points to a Fisher-Price animal toy, sitting in the window, one of her most popular toys. “This toy comes with one or two animals included in the price. But when you start adding more animals, it becomes a $100 toy.”
At the toybrary, children can go in, pick what they want to play with or take home, and not be told ‘No’. In fact, it’s just the opposite. “You want to take that toy home? Sure!”
Kids between six-months of age and six years old can choose from hundreds of toys at Giggles & Tickles. Melissa keeps an inventory of the best educational brands, including Green Start, Fat Brain Toys, Playskool, Fisher-Price, Baby Einstein, IQ Baby and more. There are toys ranging from phonics sets to more advanced engineering-type toys that explore how things work and toys that stimulate imaginative play. “Any toy that has a cause and effect is really popular,” Melissa added. “That’s how children discover the world around them and start to make sense of everything.”
In addition to having fun at the toybrary, the kids also learn respect for toys, how to take care of things, how to take turns, how to be polite and how to ask for what they want. These are all important social skills that will help prepare them for elementary school. Giggles & Tickles also offers a selection of art and play experiences for children and groups for moms.
As a budding entrepreneur, Melissa is reaching out to local children’s librarians and parent networking groups to disseminate information and to promote Giggles & Tickles and the concept of a toybrary. She has also advertised in the Chestnut Hill Local because “it has a great audience.”
Melissa grew up in Hunterton County, N.J. She attended the University of Miami, where in 1991 she received a dual degree in child psychology and advertising. She moved to this area 16 years ago to work as Director of the Christ Lutheran Child Care Center in Chestnut Hill. She lives in Oreland with her husband Dave and their sons Colin, 14, and William, 9.
Giggles & Tickles is located at 1024 East Willow Grove Ave. in Wyndmoor. For more information, go to gigglesandticklestoybrary.com or call 215-233-1244.