Toying around in King County made convenient, affordable
Karen Whittier, owner of Rent the ToyChest, hands a yellow construction hat to 1-year-old Claire Trudelle while her older brother, Miles, 2, plays with a toy truck in Sammamish June 18.
Bringing play to the household just got easier.
“Play specialist” Karen Whittier, driven by the firm belief that play is the best way for children to learn, started the delivery-based business Rent the ToyChest to encourage play and creativity in households throughout most of King County.
“Play is so valuable for a child’s development,” Whittier said. “I want to help families add more play opportunities.”
Parents, grandparents, uncles and older sisters — really anyone looking to entertain a young person — can choose high-quality toys from Whittier’s online collection and try them out for a few weeks. Whittier, who packages the selected toys into plastic tubs, will drive straight to your doorstep to deliver them.
“As a nana, just to have toys around … it’s a great way not to invest in permanent ones,” Ronda “Nana” Erlandson said.
Erlandson, who has lived in Sammamish for more than two decades, is one of Whittier’s friends.
Erlandson had rented wooden trucks and a couple other construction-themed pieces for her 2-year-old grandson, Miles Trudelle.
But Rent the ToyChest goes beyond the need to preoccupy a visiting youngster.
Seattle resident Rachel Trudelle, Miles’ mother, told her husband that it would make sense to rent toys because children outgrow them so quickly; plus, they’re expensive.
“If we could have an ongoing rotation of toys, that’d be great,” she said. “I’m always looking for high quality toys. These are all the kinds of toys I want.”
She also said renting is a great way to try out certain items before buying them.
“Renting is such a common-sense thing to do for so many reasons,” Whittier said.
It keeps the clutter down and unfavored toys out of landfills.
Whittier’s toys are meant for preschool children, typically ages 3-5. Whittier plans on expanding, and has made an effort to make it easier to find the toddler-friendly toys online, but most of those still lean toward 3 year olds. She doesn’t expect to expand her selection to suit ages 8 and older, because, realistically, they’re into more organized activities, like sports, she said.
She primarily focuses on toys that will stimulate creativity, like blocks, puzzles, puppets, toy trucks and dress-up items.
Like everything Disney, Whittier despises mainstream items, describing them as fad toys that children will quickly abandon. These toys come with a pre-described storyline and backstory — there’s simply no room for imagination, she said.
She is not liable for the children while they play with her toys; she assumes parents know what is acceptable for their children to play with and will rent toys accordingly.
“You have to supervise,” Whittier said. “I expect parents to know their kid’s tendencies.”
And when it’s time for pick-up, simply put the toys back the way they came, and Whittier will take care of the rest. She sanitizes items and launders the costumes before renting them out again.
Her prices are between ⅙ and 1/10 of retail price for a two-week rental, she said, and that increases for the three- and four-week plans. The price also factors in Whittier’s gas costs.
For example, the three-piece collection Erlandson rented was $23.33 plus tax for two weeks.
Prior to running Rent the ToyChest out of her 1987 Sammamish home, Whittier worked for Bethlehem Steel after graduating from University of Washington with a metallurgical engineering degree — but she couldn’t escape the pull to educate youngsters.
After her children were born, she realized her calling and eventually co-founded Red Gate Preschool in 1995. The school, still in operation, is nestled on a farm off of Southeast Issaquah-Beaver Lake Road in Sammamish.
To rent from Whittier’s toy chest, and for pricing or delivery information, visit www.rentthetoychest.com.