While working as a stay-at-home mom, Falls Church resident Lisa Bourven came to have a keen understanding of how play can transform a child. Following years of family experience at a play-based cooperative preschool, she realized how the concept of play is a key aspect of growth and development.
Thus, she dove headfirst into a venture that would make play accessible to all: The Toy Nest.
The new-to-Falls Church concept is a membership-based toy library full of high-quality toys and baby gear that kids, parents and families alike can use at their leisure. Within the 2,100-square-foot space, shelves are aligned with pre-loved toys, games, puzzles, costumes and more.
Bourven had been offering curbside pickup and delivery of items since March, until recently opening her doors to in-person customers on June 19. While right now the space is a full-service toy library, Bourven envisions it becoming more of an indoor play space and private-event venue in a post-pandemic world.
Here, Bourven tells us more about how she’s been able to transition through the pandemic, continuing to serve the local community. Highlights from our conversation are below.
What exactly is a toy library, in your own words?
By lending toys, games and puzzles, toy libraries multiply play and learning opportunities for children while reducing waste, expense and clutter.
What has it been like offering curbside pickup and other services during the pandemic?
As the only business of our kind in Virginia, it’s been unsettling to determine how evolving laws and science affect us. We chose early on to prioritize public health and safety by sanitizing everything between loans and by restricting service to delivery during our area’s peak. Juggling those additional demands with the home-schooling needs of our own children was extremely difficult. In addition, the library space was not configured for picking and packing orders, so that is something we had to put in place. However, we were extremely fortunate to have planned the business with online sales and a digital catalog in mind, allowing us to open the online store in March.
How have you been able to pivot and eventually open your doors to the local community?
With the sanitizing and curbside protocol already in place, opening our physical doors was relatively easy in June. The main challenges were deciding on customer capacity, whether to require appointments and how to ensure the cleanliness of toys on the shelves. We opted for a two-family limit with optional appointments available through our website. To maintain toy cleanliness, we have allowed for browsing and toy selection only thus far, and we require all patrons to either wash or sanitize hands upon entry. All reserved items are given an additional wipe-down when packed.
Why Falls Church?
Falls Church has a small town feel and is the place I call home. I saw the need here and know many of the moms here, so this is where I wanted to start.
How do you envision the concept growing in the future?
I have big ideas about where I’d like to take the business, but we’ve got to make it through this pandemic first.
What else should readers know before visiting the shop?
Before purchasing toys, we encourage families to consider quality, not quantity of toys. Research shows that when surrounded by fewer toys, kids play more deeply and in more sophisticated ways. By borrowing only the very best from a toy library such as The Toy Nest, parents can make a lasting impact on their children’s cognitive development. // 98 N. Washington St., Falls Church; $25-$45 for membership, $10-$15 for drop-ins
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