While parents spend countless hours searching for the best toys for their children, when the time comes to part with them, finding places to donate these well-used and beloved toys can take an emotional toll. Lots of toys hold memories, making them hard to part with.
But you can donate used toys so that they continue to bring smiles and happiness to other children without filling up landfills. While looking for somewhere to donate, you may find that some places don't accept toys, will reject stuffed animals, or they will only take new toys in the original packaging (such as Toys for Tots or The Ronald McDonald House Charities, which uses wish lists). Finding the most meaningful place to donate used toys can be challenging, but not impossible.
Preparing Used Toys for Donation
Before you donate a used toy though, consider the following:
- Ponder saving and passing used toys down from generation to generation in your family. Classic toys like dollhouses, train sets, wooden toys, and ride-on toys often stand the test of time.
- Check if the toys you intend to donate are recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a government agency. It's easy to search the site's recall list to check if the toy is recalled due to choking hazards or risk of injuries.
- Clean and sanitize toys you intend to donate. Remove corroded batteries, wash stuffed animals in special laundry bags, and clean plastic toys with soap, water, or disinfectant wipes.
Once a toy is ready to be donated, reach out to these three following types of organizations that might be thrilled to receive used toys. Call and confirm toy donation policies before dropping off toys. Agencies often change their policies and organizations may decide they can no longer take used donations.
Early Childhood Programs in Underprivileged Areas
Not every early childhood program or public elementary school is lucky enough to have rooms filled with shiny new toys and games. Many educational facilities have inadequate toys (and books) for their youngest students.
Begin your search with Head Start, a national government-run initiative offering school-readiness programs for children of low-income families. Find a location near you and call to see if the center will accept toy donations. Several other early childhood programs and schools, possibly in your area, might be in desperate need of the following items:
- Ride-on toys
- Board games
- Arts and crafts items
- Play kitchens
Shelters and Safe Homes
Many local shelters have accommodations for displaced families with children, and those kids will welcome the gift of a donated toy. Start by calling your local social services agency to see if there is a need for gently used toy donations at a safe home for domestic violence victims or a homeless shelter that houses families and children. The social services department can tap into the needs of child foster care agencies in need of toys, as well.
If you find it tough to reach someone on the phone, it's perfectly acceptable to directly call a shelter. To identify shelters near you, visit the Homeless Shelter Directory. Chances are, the person answering the phone may tell you items they accept and how and when to drop off toys.
Toy-Specific Non-Profit Organizations
To make the process easy, consider turning to non-profit organizations, such as the list below, that specifically deal with used toy donations. They may help arrange pick-ups or drop-offs to make it simple to donate your collection of gently worn toys.
- Second Chance Toys aims to keep good toys out of landfills. If there is not a location nearby, for those with over 50 gently used plastic toys, they will help arrange a drop-off location.
- Stuffed Animals for Emergencies takes in donations, cleans them, and finds local organizations that need these items for children who are victims of trauma or emotional abuse.
- Big Brothers Big Sisters of America also accepts used toys through their foundation. Check what types of toys the foundation is accepting; they don't accept all types of toys. The charity works within communities, and also with military families that need support.
Toy Safety. Nationwide Children's Hospital.