Where to Donate Stuffed Animals and Other Toys

toys in and around a donation box

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Donating gently used stuffed animals and other toys can bring smiles to children in need. Plus, donating is a way of charitably decluttering your home. There are many worthy organizations that welcome toys to be re-homed with children who will love playing with them. Read on for details on how to donate toys in your local area.

where to donate toys illustration

The Spruce / Joshua Seong


Stuffed animals have a tendency to get grungy with years of kid love, so make sure to wash your plush pets before donating them so that they look (and smell) fresh. Avoid fragrant detergents and fabric softeners, though, because these products can be irritating to some children.

1. Charities

Salvation Army and Goodwill are two of the most recognizable charities that take toy donations. But call your local branch before you go to confirm that it's accepting toy donations.

Such charities often give toys directly to less fortunate children, or they sell the toys and put the proceeds toward the organization's efforts. Either way, the toys will be helping people in your community.

As an extra incentive, you can donate toys to a qualifying charity or nonprofit group and deduct the items on your taxes.

2. Hospitals

Many medical facilities accept gently used toys for their young patients to play with while they are hospitalized. Your local hospital might have a toy wish list posted on its website that you can check for its exact needs.

Always check with the medical facility before you show up with a box of toys. Some won't accept any items that aren't new due to the risk of spreading illness from secondhand items.

3. Doctors' Offices

Visit a children's doctor's office, the lobby is often filled with toys people have donated. Large toys can entertain children in the waiting room. And small toys can be used in the doctor's prize bin to reward kids for making it through a checkup.

Check with your local doctor's office to see what its needs are. If you have kids, you can have them write short messages of well wishes on certain toys and books to encourage children getting their medical checkups.

4. Daycare Centers

It is rare to find a daycare center that is not in need of more toys. With so many children to entertain, daycare centers run through toys pretty fast.

If you don't use a daycare center yourself, check with parents in your area to find one that will take your toy donations. The greatest need will likely be toys for young children.

5. Shelters

Women's shelters, as well as shelters for homeless people, are often overlooked as toy donation sites. But children end up at these locations too, and they often come with very few possessions, so many of these shelters will gladly take gently used toy donations.

At the same time, you might be able to donate other items, including clothing, bedding, and toiletries. Contact a particular shelter to find out its wish list.

6. Children's Homes

Children's homes are another place where you can donate used toys for kids in need. Groups of kids live together in children's homes, so toys for kids of all ages are usually appreciated. Don't forget about toys for older children, as they're often an overlooked group in favor of cute toys for young kids.

Check your local directory to see whether there is a children's home near you, and find out what its needs are.

7. Military Families

With military families constantly on the move, some toys might not make the trip to the family's new home. So some gently used toys could be a nice welcoming gesture for a military family with kids that's new to your city.

You also can contact a local military family support group to find a home for your toy donations, or contact Operation Homefront to search for current needs.

8. Religious Centers

From newborns to school-age kids, local religious centers often provide childcare services to a variety of children during services and other facility events. Contact a local place of worship to find out what its needs are. If it's not accepting toy donations at the moment, there's a good chance it will be able to direct you to a reputable location that will take your donations.

9. Social Services

Your local social services division likely will be able to connect you with a variety of kids who would love to play with your gently used children's toys.

Contact your local department to find out what it needs and where to bring donations. It also might have needs for other children's items, such as clothing and shoes.

10. Police and Fire Departments

Police officers and firefighters often carry small toys, usually stuffed animals, to comfort scared and injured children on the scene. And local departments generally look to the public for donations to provide this service.

Call your local police and fire departments to find out whether they would like some gently used toys. Around the holidays, departments also often serve as drop-off locations for toy, coat, and other donations.

  • Should you clean stuffed animals before donating them?

    Before donating stuffed animals that have been gently used, they should be cleaned. If they don't contain pellet stuffing, they can be placed in a laundry bag and washed in the washer on gentle in cold water and then air-dried.

  • How do you clean toys you're going to donate?

    Any gently used toy that is plastic can be washed by hand in warm water and mild dish soap and laid on a towel to air dry before donating.

  • Is there a better time of year to donate toys?

    Any time of the year is a good time to give toys, but around the holiday season toy donations are sorely needed. Check with local charities and organizations in your area.