Gran Gran’s Toy Library Supports Active, Healthy Playtime

Looking for ways to keep your children interested in active play in a world overrun with the latest digital devices? Now, parents and caregivers can find help at the first toy library in Arkansas, a program of our CALS Nixon Library.

Our rotating, renewable supply of high-quality toys will stoke a child’s natural curiosity while easing the family budget. And all the toys are free to check out, thanks to a generous private donor, Liza Wilson.

Gran Gran’s Toy Library opened in September 2018 with a playtime party and live music at the CALS Nixon branch in Jacksonville.

Local toddlers gleeful about new toys

At the opening party, toy airplanes and dolls in strollers paraded around the room in the clutches of joyful toddlers. But thanks to this unique toy library, parents knew they would be spared from the risk of tiny meltdowns about “letting go” of toys when it was time to leave. The toy library allows parents to check out toys just like library books, keep them for two weeks, and return them in time to check out new toys.

Library donated by Jacksonville native and toy library professional

 Liza Wilson, who was born and raised in Jacksonville, donated all the toys and storage cabinets. Ms. Wilson runs a fee-based toy library in Austin, Texas, and with firsthand knowledge of the importance of educational toys,  she wanted to give a free toy library to the children of her hometown. Over 100 brand-new, high-quality educational toys are now available thanks to her donation.

Liza Wilson, donor, far right, with family members Kathy Wilson Roberts and Mary Kathryn Williams

“We want to encourage children to use their own minds to play with imagination and creativity,” Ms. Wilson said. “So there are no electronic toys here in the new toy library. Instead, we have lots of toys that lead to active play.”

Clear benefits of active play with traditional toys

The benefits of active play were clear at the toy library’s opening. Children had to interact with one another, navigate through a crowded room, and decide whose turn it was to play with each toy. The children scooting around on trikes and riding toys were developing their coordination and figuring out how to get unstuck from rugs. For the amused adult onlookers, there was no better demonstration of the physical and social skills built by active play with traditional toys.

Toy library named for donor’s grandmother, Ruth Nixon Wilson

The toy library is named “Gran Gran’s Toy Library” after Ruth Nixon Wilson, Liza’s late grandmother. Gran Gran’s smiling photograph watched over the crowd of children playing with scooters, trucks, and puzzles. The toy library also includes costumes, which were a big hit as the library’s small guests discovered shiny superhero capes and gauzy tutus.

CALS Executive Director Nate Coulter stated“The toy library is an example of how the wonderful generosity of someone like Liza Wilson can reach the community through the public library system. These toys are a valuable resource for the children in Jacksonville to help them develop and learn. Because of our unique role in local communities, CALS can provide buildings and staff support to enable our partners and donors to launch some of their good works. We’re delighted to have the chance to help in this way, and we thank Ms. Wilson, her grandmother Ruth for inspiring Liza, and the entire Wilson family of Jacksonville for making this toy library possible.”

Toy check-out procedures

Toys are now available for check out for thirty minutes on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11:15-11:45 a.m., after the Nixon Library’s preschool and toddler programs at 10:30 a.m. The toys are primarily designed for children ages 6 months to 5 years old.