How to Organize a Toy Swap

Toy swap
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Toys can be expensive. If you're like most parents, you probably have at least one pile of perfectly fine toys in your home that your child is not interested in anymore. The solution? A toy swap, also called a toy exchange, helps you declutter your home, gives those toys a good home, and lets you pick up some new ones at little to no cost. Here's how to plan a toy exchange of any size.

Decide on the Size

Do you want to host a small and private toy swap or a larger one that involves your neighborhood or community? One way to determine the size of a toy swap is to gauge the interest in having one. You'll want to make sure you will have enough participants and items to exchange. Put out the word to a few friends to see if they're up for a swap.

Choose a Location

Once you choose the size of the swap, you'll need a location. There's a lot to think about when holding an event like a toy exchange. Smaller swaps are easier because you'll likely hold it in a private home with people you already know. But if you feel uneasy about hosting many strangers in your home, see if there's a more neutral space for a swap. Here are tips to consider if you choose to go larger.

Bigger May Be Better

Even if you wind up not using all of the space, you'd rather be in a spot that is too large than too small. More space gives you extra room to organize and stage your event. A spacious venue gives people more room to comfortably browse and walk around, just like you'd expect to find at a yard sale.

Public Space Considerations

For larger community events, consider a church, firehouse, or community center. Go over the ground rules and details with the owner or manager of the space. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • How many people are allowed inside at once?
  • How long can you have the space for the event?
  • Are there tables and chairs available or will you need to provide your own?
  • Is there adequate parking?
  • Can you hang signs inside and outside?
  • Will the restroom facilities remain open?
  • Are food and drinks allowed inside?
  • Do you need a permit for the event?
  • Do you need insurance to hold the event?

A Win-Win Event

Offer to donate leftover toys items to a church or other public space in exchange for hosting the swap.

Get the Word Out

For smaller private events, sometimes all you need is word-of-mouth to let guests know about the swap. For community events, it can be more involved with sending emails, invitations, and posting flyers and announcements online and around town. Use similar strategies that you'd use to advertise a yard sale to attract buyers. Include these details in your invitations and announcements:

  • Date and time
  • Cost if you're charging
  • Types of toys for swapping
  • Housekeeping rules
  • Contact information

Enlist Help

Even if your toy swap is small, you'll still need some assistance. There are four parts of the event when you'll most likely need help:

  • Gathering, organizing, and assigning value to items before the event
  • Helping during the event
  • Cleaning up after the event
  • Boxing up and handling donations after the event

Set Housekeeping Guidelines

Regardless of the event's size, you'll need to set some rules to make the swap go smoothly. It is best to spell out your expectations clearly and early. You'll want to determine swappable toys, how to assign a value to a toy for swapping, and attendance guidelines. Here are a few housekeeping tips:

Determine Types of Toys Accepted

You'll need to decide the types of toys to swap. For example, not every guest or participant has the same age child which means you could have a disparity of types of toys. There are other considerations:

  • Will you accept new toys?
  • How will you determine what is gently used?
  • Will you accept just baby items or toddler's toys, for example?
  • What categories of toys will you accept (stuffed animals, dolls, trucks, video games, for example)?
  • Will you accept games and puzzles with missing pieces?
  • Do you want items to be cleaned before they're dropped off?
  • Is there a limit on the number of things someone can bring?
  • Is there any category of toys you won't accept?
  • How far in advance should people bring items to be exchanged?

Establish Toy Value Guidelines

Since this will be a toy swap, you're not expecting anyone to pay for toys. To make the trades fair, you'll want to determine an exchange and currency system. Some toy swaps are simple; exchange a toy for a toy. You may have small toys mixed in with larger bikes, for example. To avoid issues, many swaps assign value to each toy that can be exchanged for a toy of the same value. Be realistic when assigning values to items by setting "prices" like you would at a yard sale. Some toy swaps give participants coupons or tickets with values printed on them to use for exchanges.

Be Sensitive When Valuing a Toy

You and a participant may have differing opinions on what to value a toy. That's because there may be emotions surrounding a formerly cherished toy. In those cases, try to meet in the middle when establishing the value of a toy.

Decide on Attendance Guidelines

Though it may sound counterintuitive, consider hosting an adult-only toy swap. Or, have a babysitter entertain children in an area away from the swap. As you can imagine, kids at toy swaps can cause a bit of chaos. Also, kids may not be happy seeing their old toys on the table up for grabs by others.

Prepare for the Day

Decide if you will accept items on the day of the event. If so, it helps to designate a tag team of helpers to grab the items, price them, and set them out. Here are items you'll need to have on hand for the big day, similar to what you'd have at a yard sale:

  • Bags and boxes
  • Large tables for items
  • Chairs and smaller tables for volunteers
  • Signs designating toy categories and check-out stations
  • General supplies such as paper, tape, tacks, and markers for last minute signs
  • A cashbox (for admittance, if necessary)

Handling Leftover Toys

Once the swap is over and the last toy has been exchanged, you'll likely have some items left over. Have a donation plan in place. As soon as the event is over, immediate box leftovers for donation.