Every two weeks, Susan Leshner's doorbell rings and the "toy lady" brings 2-year-old Nell Leshner something new.
For Nell, it's kind of like Christmas.
For her mother, it's even better.
The Annapolis mother of two young children subscribes to "Turn-A-Round Toys," a new toy delivery service started by three county child-development specialists.
For six- or 12-month periods, the three partners will bring educational brand-name toys to homes in Anne Arundel County, delivering a new toy and picking up the old one every two weeks.
"It's made me buy fewer toys," Leshner said. "I'm not going to Kiddie City once a month, thinking maybe I should buy a new toy."
That cuts down on her home's ever-increasing clutter of toys that no longer interest her child, she said. Instead, a new toy from the service, "a large-scale toy I couldn't necessarily buy myself," is always a novelty and sure to teach her child something, Leshner said.
It didn't take long for the three partners in the venture -- Deborah Wood, Anna Bryant and Pam Kanewske -- to agree on which toys to offer.
Bryant and Kanewske, mothers of preschoolers and teachers of Gymboree developmental play classes in Severna Park, and Wood, a doctoral candidate at the Child Study Institute at the University of Maryland, shopped for high quality, non-trendy, non-violent and non-sexist toys. They steered clear of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The partners ended up investing $1,400 in 51 toys for 40 families, including playthings manufactured by Little Tikes, Fisher-Price, Playskool and Mattel for children ages 2 to 5 and older. Parents will get 13 of 20 choices.
They can pick from items such as waffle block sets, big building blocks, a camp set, a food scan checkout counter, a bowling set, a dress-up trunk, band instruments, a dump truck and a record player. Or they can rent "big ticket" items for an additional $10, such as gym sets, a playhouse, riding toys, a puppet theater and a mini-piano.
With the service -- $60 for six months and $125 for 12 -- come written suggestions showing how parents can strengthen their child's motor or language skills through play, Wood said.
"A lot of parents buy toys to entertain children, but we want to see parents and children working together," Kanewske said.
So far, that seems to be happening, Kanewske said.
One couple told Kanewske that they felt they should help their child make the most of building blocks he would have for only two weeks.
Some parents who subscribed worried at first that their children would become too attached to a toy they'd have to give up.
For Leshner's daughter, that hasn't been a problem.
"For her, the emphasis is on what is coming," Leshner said."She thinks it's a big deal when someone knocks on the door with a toy for her. I've explained to her that Miss Debbie is sharing her toys with us and now it's time for other children to play with it."
Kanewske came up with the idea for a toy-lending library. At first, she and her partners intended to rent space for a toy center, but they decided to start with less-costly home delivery.
The partners hope eventually to open a toy rental center. They also want to market their service to day care centers, family day care centers, grandparents and hotels.