Kites Toybox welcomes two special guests
Kites Toybox opened its doors earlier this year in March 2020, but this Toybox started life nearly fifty years ago in 1975. Back then it was known as Noah’s Ark. Hailed as a great toy resource, it’s become a valued toy library for children with a disability or developmental delay.
We were thrilled to welcome Noah’s Ark former Occupational Therapist and Board Member Shirley McInnes along with past Noah’s Ark Manager Sue Glasson. Both were invited to look around our sensory toy library in its new surroundings at Kites Children’s Therapy office, Victoria Park.
Shirley McInnes, now in her mid-seventies, was involved with Noah’s Ark in its early years. It has moved home and changed names a number of times, but has always been valued by parents and children.
“It followed a model already established elsewhere in Australia, giving families the opportunity to trial toys that might suit their child’s needs. Membership was always kept deliberately low to encourage people to use it,” explains Shirley.
‘’It also became a place where people could talk openly about the challenges of parenting a child with a disability and to seek professional advice.’’
Noah’s Ark was introduced at a time when therapists started to recognise the importance of play in a child’s development. It’s now widely accepted that toys and play can help children achieve milestones in all areas of their development.
Noah’s Ark – the early years
Shirley McInnes worked briefly at Noah’s Ark in 1980. She relocated to Adelaide for a while with her husband and growing family, before returning to Perth in 1986. Moving back she became the Secretary and then the Chair of the Noah’s Ark Board for ten years and later became the Occupational Therapist at the toy library.
“As an Occupational Therapist, I would spend time with the family suggesting toys that would be appropriate for the child’s goals. Often I would recommend resources that would help in several areas of development, rather than focusing on just one.”
“The informality of the setting enabled staff to know the families really well and to be able to take into consideration other things happening in the child’s life. It was a close-knit and very supportive environment.’’
Noah’s Ark was initially funded by the Department of Education and later the Disability Services Commission, but resourcing the service always brought challenges.
‘’I lost a large amount of sleep when I was on the Board, over whether we were going to have enough money for staff and keep the mobile toy library on the road. I was always looking for extra funding. Lotteries West contributed a lot of money, I spent a lot of time filling in funding applications!’’ Shirley adds.
‘’Overheads were high. There was ongoing rent and because the mobile toy library went out into the rural areas, we had to pay for a lot of fuel.’’
On the move
In the latter years of Noah’s Ark, Shirley worked alongside Early Childhood teacher, Sue Glasson who in 2013 became the new Manager.
“Noah’s Ark has moved around a lot and had various names. In 2013 the service merged with the Independent Living Centre and in 2017, following the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Western Australia, it moved to Activ and was known as the Activ Learning and Discovery Centre,” Sue says.
In 2019 it became clear that the toy library wasn’t best suited to Activ and the service went out to tender again; VisAbility Ltd. submitted the successful bid.
New home and new name – Kites Toybox
4,500 toys moved to its new home in Victoria Park in January 2020 and became known as Kite’s Toybox toy library, part of our Kites Children’s Therapy service.
The list of toys is exhaustive, old favourites sit alongside newer ones. There are construction toys for motor development, sensory toys, and toys for imaginative play, self-awareness, switches and adapted resources.
Membership fees for Kites Toybox are deliberately kept low. Clients can also pay for their Toybox membership via their National Disability Insurance Scheme plan out of Consumables for their core support budget.
During the guided tour, both Shirley and Sue reflected on the abundance of toys available.
They were introduced to the Dog-Assisted Therapy Suite and met our staff, including Therapy Assistant, Cecilia Courts, Kites Program Manager, Crystal Chan and Manager, Therapy Services, Seb Della Maddalena.
“It takes me back, seeing all the great toys and knowing that they’re really appreciated. It’s fantastic to know that parents can receive one-to-one support from health professionals so they’ll get to know which ones suit their child the best,” says Sue.
‘’I feel very at home and I even recognise some of the toys I bought for the service last year during its time as the Activ Learning and Discovery Centre.”
“It has been updated and revitalised. I do hope it continues to grow and thrive,” adds Shirley.
We hope so too Shirley!
At the moment the Kites Toybox van goes out to playgroups but future plans incorporate visits to schools and other organisations.