Toy drive to benefit Little Leopards

Dominique Mazero, Staff Reporter

Through the first week of February, the district is sponsoring the Second Annual After Christmas toy drive that will donate gently used toys to the Little Leopards day care center located near Hart Elementary.

“The main goal is to provide toys for our youngest students at Little Leopard,” toy drive coordinator Amy Burks said. “Also, it allows for parents and teachers to recycle toys as their children outgrow or receive new toys for Christmas.”

People can drop off toys at the Administration building, also known as the “Red” building located next to Lovejoy Elementary.

“Many parents and teachers have already brought several toys, even trash bags full of toys,” Burks said.

Not only do toys provide enjoyment to the children at the daycare center, but they also aid in overall learning and growth.

“As you can imagine, the toys in our center get a lot of use,” Little Leopards Director Lisa Leirer said. “Play is such an important part of an early childhood environment. Children grow and develop in all developmental domains through play. We utilize both teacher led and student initiated play in all our rooms. So you can see how important it is to have a variety of age appropriate toys.”

To prepare for the toy drive, the teachers at the daycare center go through a process to analyze what toys are needed.

“The teachers carefully examine the toys currently in their rooms for breakage, missing pieces, or anything that may require the toy to be replaced,” Leirer said. “In addition, the teachers observe how the children interact with the thousands of toys and with each other to determine if and what new toys might be the most useful. You see, from year to year, children’s interests change. For example, one year, you may have a group of children fascinated by trains, and this year, the trains sit unused. We try to engage the children in by learning by using what interests them most.”

The teachers believe in the benefit of toys in child development, but parents also see the positive effects as well.

“I think it’s great that people are donating toys, so that the kids can play with new stuff because they get bored,” French teacher Melody Mozley said. “I know that my little boy will be super excited to see something new to play with and learn from in his classroom.”

Although all toys donated will be accepted, the Little Leopards day care center has some specific needs as well.

“We are so thankful for all donations, and they will all be put to good use,” Leirer said. “One specific need is infant and toddler toys. Because children that age constantly put toys in their mouths, we must clean and disinfect them. So having enough toys to have a rotation is imperative in an infant or toddler room. We also have a need for additional push and ride on toys for our infants who are learning to walk.”