WWO Toy Library

Play is a universal human right for all children. But for millions of children this right is impinged upon by war, poverty, violence and illness, which can lead to the loss of primary caregivers and subsequent play deprivation. Primary caregivers are responsible for the earliest forms of play – smiling and gazing – which foster healthy attachment and provide critical stimulation to support healthy brain development, physical growth and emotional well-being. 


To respond to the growing crisis of play deprivation among orphaned and vulnerable children, Worldwide Orphans (WWO) installs toy libraries in orphanages and community centers in the countries we serve. 

A WWO Toy Library is packed full of colorful, wooden toys that teach children about color, spatial perception, fine motor coordination and language. Toy Libraries help children become active agents in their own environments, where they can safely explore their own intrinsic desire for play. They serveas a resource for caregivers to learn about child development and become an active participant in a child’s developmental trajectory.


Our Toy Libraries are based on the models developed in the US during the Great Depression and in Scandinavia in the 1960s for children with special needs. Our innovative approach adapts this model to address play deprivation and early childhood developmental needs of orphans and at-risk children.

Toy Libraries provides educationally based toys, reference cards to teach caregivers about cognition, fine motor, gross motor, social emotional and communication domains of development, as well as training in child centered play techniques. A local professional was hired as a Toy Librarian to sustain the day-to-day activities in each library and provide monitoring data.

In 2009, the first WWO Toy Library opened in a Residential Care Home in Debeletz, Bulgaria, serving children 0-3 years old and ‘grannies’; retired women from the local communities who spend four hours a day in the residential care facility, playing and nurturing an individual child.  The model was replicated throughout Bulgaria and has since opened in 12 residential care homes, including children up to 7 years. 

The model has since spread into the community, where a local community day center serving vulnerable children with special needs, requested a Toy Library as a resource to strengthen parent and caregiver attachments through play. WWO plans to develop more community-based Toy Libraries -- including mobile Toy Libraries -- in the coming years.

In 2011 the Toy Library was adapted as a community based model for Haiti. WWO’s youth mentors, who work one-to-one with orphans and parents from the local community where poverty often contributes to the decision to relinquish a child, play side-by-side and receive guidance from Toy Librarians. This Toy Library also has a mobile approach, reaching children in a hospital ward for abandoned babies in Port-au-Prince. In Haiti, WWO trains young adults between 18-35 years to serve as mentors for and children at risk.  These youth mentors along with parents in the community access the library to support childrens' development from birth to 5 years.

In response to the process of deinstitutionalization in Bulgaria, WWO also partners with community based services for at risk children at Family Counseling Centers. In 2012, WWO launched a toy library at an early intervention center in Varna and a primary School in Targovishte, and in 2013, three toy libraries were launched in Family Counseling Centers serving children and families from Roma and Turkish minority communities in the the region of Shouman.  

In 2014, WWO launched its first toy library in Vietnam.


The WWO Toy Library model now has a multi-level professional development trajectory for Toy Librarians and a train-the-trainer curriculum to help spread a child-centered approach to children’s development through play to caregivers, educators and social work professionals. 

WWO’s Toy Library program is nimble and innovative, bringing play-based learning to orphans and vulnerable children in institutions and in the community, and serving as a resource for children to develop healthy attachment with caregivers. 



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