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June 16, 2020

Toy-lending program to aid childhood development in Midland, say SVSU organizers

Brewer and SchweitzerSaginaw Valley State University and the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library will team up to support the development of children, including those with special needs. 
With help from a $5,626 grant from the Midland Area Community Foundation, two SVSU educators plan to establish a toy-lending initiative at the Midland-based library as early as fall 2020. However, organizers say the community’s recovery from a May flood could delay the implementation. 
The program would make available toys for all children up to 5 years old including toys designed specifically for children with special needs. Each family will be able to “check out” two toys at a time from the library for a period of 21 days. 
Lisa Brewer and Aricka Schweitzer, assistant professors of occupational therapy at SVSU, will organize the program. 
“So many toys are played with and then abandoned, so this program will offer the ability for families to ‘try before they buy,’ as some adaptable toys can be very costly,” Schweitzer said. 
“Especially with the challenges presented with the pandemic and now flooding to Midland County, this program can assist families that may have lost toys or cannot afford toys to play with their children. Hopefully, this program will not only enhance play and development of the children in Midland County, but also continue to show the importance of family relationships that can be built around play.” 
The SVSU educators plan to provide manuals with each toy that show families the unique ways they can be utilized. 
"Increasing play opportunities for young children can strengthen developmental foundations in a variety of domains, including social and emotional skills, cognitive skills, and physical skills,” Brewer said. 
“Play is beneficial for all children, but it is especially important for children with special needs who often have limited access to engaging and appropriate toys that they can operate and manipulate independently. I believe this collaboration will help families to support the development of their child or children by matching toys to specific needs and, ultimately, providing opportunities for engagement and fun." 
Schweitzer said the program hits home – literally – for her. 
"Growing up and now raising my children in Midland County, we often frequent the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library for all of the great resources they have, but now that they will offer a toy program as well, I plan on recommending it to everyone I know,” she said. 
The grant provides funds to cover the cost of a variety of accessible toys, thereby increasing opportunities for play and learning, organizers say.