The first Lekotek was begun in Sweden in 1963 by parents of children with disabilities. They coined the word “Lekotek,” using the Swedish root word “lek,” meaning toy or play, and the Greek suffix “tek” that connotes library. Its mission was the integration of children with disabilities into the family and its major objective was to provide families with the skills, materials and knowledge to effectively help their children at home.
The first Lekotek in the United States was established in Evanston, Illinois, in 1980 by two special educators. Within the first year of operation, the center moved to larger quarters because of the high demand for its services. In 1983, the National Lekotek Center received a major grant to establish Lekotek in other cities within the United States. Since that time Lekotek has developed into a national network serving thousands of children with disabilities and over 1.5 million play sessions. The phenomenal growth of Lekotek has resulted in part because its philosophy is practical and simple to understand…making a difference in the lives of children with special needs through toys & play!
Today this concept has expanded along with the special needs market. Lekotek has increased its scope from play sessions to a comprehensive collection of programs that promote toys for children of all abilities. They range from providing direct services to children and their families to consulting for toy manufacturers on marketing to the special needs community. A cornerstone of these programs is the AblePlay website that offers ratings and reviews of toys and products appropriate for children of all abilities.