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Playing with Toy House

Toy House have been helping parents and young children in the community since 1979. We spoke to Julie from Toy House about the importance of play, the great work Toy House does for the area and how they can help you.

What is Toy House? What do you provide to people, and who can come?

Toyhouse is a community based, grass roots family support organisation, using play as the means of engagement with local families living with young children.  Whilst most of our services are universal, some are targeted specifically to those with additional needs, be that physical disability, depression, mental ill health or entrapment.

We support families in need to minimise their disadvantage by providing access to high quality toys and play environments where children can learn in the way that is most suited to their stage of development; namely through play!

Toyhouse is committed to supporting the attachment between parents and their young children, as research indicates this leads to the best start in life, increasing the chances of developing resilience and better outcomes in adult life. Toyhouse provides services for parents and children together, and has a strong and enduring commitment to the importance of support and engagement by the community.


Why do you run Toy House? What is the ethos behind it, and what made you begin?

Our mission statement is:

Toyhouse makes a difference……by supporting the wellbeing of families locally and throughout the community.  With over 39 years’ experience of working with families through the medium of play, Toyhouse fosters attachment between parents and children, enabling them to interact together and share experiences.  Toyhouse empowers individuals, families, volunteers and employees to develop the skills and resilience to achieve their aspirations.

We provide early support for a better future!

Toyhouse was established in 1979 and grew out of Home Visiting work that the Adult Education Institute was undertaking to lonely, isolated or depressed women with young children.  The idea was to support these women by regular visits, to develop their parenting skills by means of demonstrating the value of toys and play, and by leaving them with toys to use until the next visit.  The long term aim was to support these women in making use of Adult Education Institute daytime classes and thus increase their adult learning, hopefully, eventually to increase their chances of enjoyable, fulfilling employment.


You run several nutrition related activities at Toy House. Why did you start providing them and why do you think they’re important to children’s development and their parents?

Toyhouse has always promoted healthy eating, and with the recent interest in tackling the obesity crisis in children and over 9 years ago we were able to access funding to run classes for parents and their children. For children to be healthy and have a good diet, parents must be able access information on how and why we need to provide a healthier lifestyle for the whole family.

One of the classes, Cook, Community and Culture, also explores social connections and culture. Is this very important to children’s development?

Community cohesion is important for everyone if we are going to make the most of and promote our local communities.  Supporting this in families with young children will enable them to grow up in a more united environment with a deeper understanding of those around them!


What do you enjoy most about running Toy House and providing these classes to people?

I love working with a wide range of communities living in Tower Hamlets, promoting play as being important and fun in the family’s relationship with their children, and providing a wide range of services for families pre-birth to 11 years and from fun play sessions to parenting support classes.


The classes are also great for parents! What work do you engage in with parents and what kind of support do they receive from the class?

All of the Toyhouse sessions are for parent/carers and their children to enjoy together.  From Mellow Bumps which is pre-birth course to Movers & Munchers an afterschool healthy eating cook club.  Parents can build social networks to meet and support each other, they can attend sessions which offer play, support and information.  Children can enjoy the activities, toys and building skills which will form the foundations of their learning. They can also borrow good quality educational toys for our Toy Library!


How have you seen the participants of your class change as they come to the classes?

We have seen parents increase their confidence both in their parenting skills and their life.  They feel able to access more sessions and feel more relaxed with their children.

We have seen the children learn social skills, enabling them to share and make friends and helping them to feel confident around other adults and children.


Lastly, what is your top advice for parents of young children?

Simply just to have fun and enjoy time with your children!


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Have fun and enjoy time with your children!