Helping children through the art of play

Meghan Quinn-Cardinal in the toy library
Meghan Quinn-Cardinal in the toy library at the Mackay site of the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre.

Meghan Quinn-Cardinal
Toy Librarian / Assistant Health Technician, MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre

Meghan Quinn-Cardinal, the Toy Librarian at the MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, says that people often underestimate the importance of play in learning. “Because our clients have such specific needs, they need highly motivating toys and games to learn through play.”

One example is a toy bear who sings. “This bear is not just a toy with a switch that will sing to you. It is teaching a child how to eventually use a Dynavox communication device, or how to use a power wheelchair with controls. Adapted toys are a stepping stone for children to using assistive technology.”

Ms. Quinn-Cardinal, who is also an Assistant Health Technician, studied to be a beneficiary attendant, and came to work at MAB-Mackay right after her work placement finished in 2013. When the position as Toy Librarian opened up, she seized the opportunity. She works with students in the Rehabilitation in Specialized Schools program at the Mackay Centre and Philip E. Layton Schools of the English Montreal School Board, which are both located at the Mackay site, and with clients in the 0-7 years and 8-21 years programs and medical clinics.

Ms. Quinn-Cardinal explains that the toy library is the main part of her job. The toy library allows families to borrow toys that help their children develop their motor, language, visual and auditory skills.  Ms. Quinn-Cardinal keeps an inventory of available toys and works with therapists to select the right toys for their clients’ needs. She says that every day presents a new challenge, which she relishes.

Megan Quinn-Cardinal
Meghan Quinn-Cardinal helping Physiotherapist Sara Wight evaluate a toy that Ms. Wight may use with one of her clients.

“I sometimes have to ‘MacGyver’ toys to ensure their functioning, or fix them on the spot,” she says, referring to the title character on a TV series who used unconventional problem-solving techniques. “There is a lot of room for creativity in my role.” She also helps to design games and books or a picture exchange system with adapted images for children who are non-verbal. “A child may be learning new words such as ‘fork’ and ‘spoon’. Parents will send me photos from home of the actual objects the child is using and is familiar with, and we can create a game from that.”

Isabelle Cormier, Program Manager for the 8-21 years program and medical clinics at MAB-Mackay Rehabilitation Centre, says even though Ms. Quinn-Cardinal works mainly behind the scenes, she is an essential part of the clinical services provided to MAB-Mackay clients in the programs she works with. “Meghan puts so much heart into her work. She goes the extra mile on a daily basis to assist clients and therapists. She makes a huge difference by being ahead of the game to organize and set up all the little details that our therapists require for working with the children. She will sometimes go shopping on her own time to buy a great toy and will also take care of repairing the damaged toys. She is positive and always helpful.”

Ms. Quinn-Cardinal says she is most inspired when she sees a child reach a milestone. “Families are so happy that their children receive services at MAB-Mackay,” she notes. “Seeing families celebrate their child’s little victories is really fulfilling.”

You Make the Difference

To nominate a member of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal staff who goes above and beyond the call of duty, contact Jennifer Timmons at