Philadelphia’s new toy library lets families save money — and the environment — while forming a community

By Grace Dickinson for

On a misty Thursday morning, June Piccone cozied up inside the dress-up area of Rutabaga Toy Library, pulling out a wide-brimmed black hat nearly as tall as her 21-month-old self. She struggled to fit it atop her head , until her dad gently coached her into first taking off her blue baseball cap. At last securing the floppy hat into place, June erupted into giggles. She strolled over to her pal Arthur, pensively splitting apart a velcro-attached cucumber in the play kitchen, and showed off her new look.

“June loves coming here. It’s a natural kid paradise with all of the toys and the friends she gets to play with,” said Andrew Piccone, a Rutabaga Toy Library member who lives around the corner. “This is such a catalyst for meeting new people as an adult, too, when it’s hard to make friends or even meet your neighbors.”

The newly opened East Falls spot offers an inventory of 350 toys within just 1,000-square-feet of bright, rug-filled space. The toys — like play lawn mowers, colorful xylophones, activity cubes, and wooden dump trucks — are designed for kids up to 6 years old. Families must enroll in a member program to take items home. Memberships are $35 a month for one kid (and $10 a month for additional siblings), with cheaper rates available for long-term commitments. Members can borrow three toys for up to 30 days.

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