Although our kids may disagree, it is possible to have too many toys! If you’ve found your child’s toy box is overflowing with toys that haven’t been touched in weeks, months, or even years, you might be thinking of a clear out.
But put away that trash can! While it may be tempting to get rid of them “the easy way”, there are much more environmentally-friendly ways to rid yourself of excess toys.
We’re a big fan of selling used toys on online thrift stores, but that can take time, and often it’s not worth the hassle for smaller items. Why not think about donating toys instead? This gives them a new life, and gives joy to others as well.
It’s a sad fact that more than a quarter of parents admit to throwing out perfectly good toys. And we all know how long plastic takes to break down in landfills (up to 1000 years)! While it’d be preferable to only own eco-friendly toys that last a lifetime, we know that’s not always a realistic goal for some, and inevitably kids get gifted plastic toys too..
To help you find the right place to donate those unused toys, and save them from landfills, we’ve compiled this comprehensive list of where to donate old toys.
Local Places to Donate Toys
One of the best ways to donate old toys is by finding people in your area who are in need. This way you can donate directly to an organization you know and trust.
Friends and Family
You never know what people are looking for unless you ask. Even if your family doesn’t need toys directly, they may know someone who does.
You can even try advertising on local Facebook groups. Put an advert up saying you have items you’re looking to re-home, and see if anyone’s interested. Websites such as BuyNothing and FreeCycle can help you find interested people.
It’s stressful enough being an adult in a hospital, so you can imagine what it’s like for a child. A toy can give a child a sense of safety and normality.
Mount Sinai has provided a list of the kind of donations hospitals look to receive. These are items for play, comfort, and learning. Gather a few things together and give your local hospital a call.
Similar to hospitals, doctor’s offices can be a stressful place for a child – even for a routine check-up. Doctors and dentist’s offices often provide toys to keep children occupied, for both the kid’s and the doctor’s sake. Shopping for toys is time-consuming, so a donation can lighten the load.
If you contact the ministry of your local church, you may find they’re looking for donations. Many churches offer childcare services and need items to keep children occupied. They may also appreciate a donation that can be used for fundraising.
Even if your church doesn’t accept donations, they may be aware of other local organizations that will.
Daycares get through toys quickly. With the number of children that pass through, that’s a lot of hands for a lot of play. A local daycare may be happy to receive a donation. It cuts down both the cost and the time of buying new, and is kinder on the environment too!
While schools may not get through the same number of toys as a daycare, they might still be looking for donations. Especially if it’s a school with younger children, or you have educational toys to donate.
Shelters aim to provide a safe space for those without a home. This can, sadly, include children. Homeless shelters tend to be overlooked for toy donations, so they may be very willing to receive them. A toy donation can help a child feel safe in uncertain circumstances.
The Homeless Shelter Directory can tell you what shelters are in your area, and how to get in contact with them.
Both short-term and long-term children’s homes need to provide kids with an environment that feels safe. Toys are instrumental to this. Your donation can help a child adjust to a new circumstance in an otherwise unsettling world.
While it may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about where to donate stuffed animals, it’s a worthy one. A stuffed animal can make an excellent toy for an abandoned animal, and provide just a little feeling of joy in an otherwise dire situation.
Donating to shelters, homes, and hospitals is a way of reducing the stress these organizations feel. We all know the importance of play, but finding and sourcing toys consumes time that could be better used elsewhere. A donation allows them to focus on other tasks.
National Places to Donate Old Toys
There are several national programs that accept toy donations too. They can then distribute the toys to those in need, or sell them to raise funding. Below we’ve listed charities that might be interested in accepting your toys.
Toys For Tots
You’ve probably heard of this one already, due to their big Christmas drive. Were you aware that Toys for Tots runs year-round?
Started by the US Marine Corps reserves, Toys for Tots wants every child to have a merry Christmas. They do this by collecting donations, raising funds, and gifting toys.
If you wish to donate, contact your local chapter to see what they’re accepting, and how to give.
Stuffed Animals For Emergencies
If you’re looking for where to donate stuffed animals, Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, or SAFE, may be the best place to start. The acronym is no accident, its mission is to help children in traumatic and emergency situations feel safe. They do this by providing them with the small comforts that have been lost.
Look for your local chapter to see what’s currently being asked for/accepted and make a donation.
Vietnam Veterans of America
Vietnam Veterans of America is a non-profit that relies on public donations for funding to support veterans. They accept toy donations that you can arrange to be picked up in many states throughout the US. They aren’t nationwide, so check out their map to see where donations are accepted.
Second Chance Toys
Play is vital for a child’s development. This is why Second Chance Toys have made it their mission to get toys to as many children as possible. They understand that for the thousands living in poverty, toys just may not be accessible.
At the moment, they only have a few drop-off locations, but check and see if there is a center near you.
Operation Homefront (Military Support Groups)
The mission of Operation Homefront is to support military families and veterans. To do so they rely on donations and fundraising.
If you wish to donate your toys to a military support group, call up Operation Homefront to get the details. They can tell you what may be needed, and where it needs to go.
Cradles to Crayons
Cradles to Crayons wants to provide all children with the essentials they need. If you live in Boston, Chicago, or Philadelphia, you can donate new and gently used toys to their organization. They keep their website updated with what items they’re looking for, and how to donate used toys.
Ronald McDonald House
Ronald McDonald House provides housing and assistance to children and families in the hospital. They understand that it’s a scary time, and the last thing you need is to be worrying about your living situation. Part of what they do is to provide creature comforts families may be missing from home, such as toys.
Ronald McDonald House is an international organization. They accept donations depending on need, so call them up to see what you can do.
Up and down the country, Goodwill has stores that can provide those in need with employment and training.
They accept donations of all kinds, including gently used toys. Call up your local store to see what they’ll be able to accept. If they can’t take it there, they may be able to point you in the direction of somewhere else that can.
The Salvation Army
Like Goodwill, the Salvation Army has donation points and stores across the country. They can even provide a pick-up service, for larger donations.
Donating toys to the Salvation Army is a good choice, but they don’t always have a need for this kind of donation. Give them a call beforehand to see what they’re accepting.
International Places to Donate Gently Used Toys
The Salvation Army and Ronald McDonald house both operate internationally, if you’re outside the US. And Toys for Tots also has a Canadian branch.
There are also many more charities operating across the world that are interested in receiving gently used toys. We’ll look at some of the more well-known charities below.
Other local options, such as daycares and shelters (and others detailed at the beginning of this article), may also be operating in your area.
KidsOut aims to provide disadvantaged children with happy memories. For children who never or rarely receive gifts, they offer toys and days out. They understand that every child deserves happiness.
KidsOut accepts donations of toys. Check out their website to see what they might be accepting at the moment.
The Toy Project UK
Recycled toys form the foundation of The Toy Project. They take gently loved toys and recycle them for those in need. This includes organizations such as hospitals and schools, who often need to use their own funds for these purchases.
Samko and Miko Toy Warehouse Canada
Samko and Miko Toy Warehouse have partnered with toy drives across Canada to collect toy donations. They want to ensure no child has to go without over the holidays. By partnering with smaller drives they make it easier for you to find a place to donate old toys.
Where to Recycle Used Toys
Some toys are, unfortunately, past the point of no return. Too much love and too much fun can be a deadly combination for a toy.
If you have a toy that is too damaged to be donated, don’t just throw it out, look into recycling.
TerraCycle aims to eliminate waste by recycling everything. This includes toys.
Toys can be difficult to recycle as they contain so many parts. TerraCycle have teamed up with toy brands such as Hasbro to take the stress away from you. Have a look on their website to see where and what you can recycle.
Local recycling plants are generally equipped to handle some types of plastic and wood, so it may be worthwhile checking if they can recycle your un-salvageable toys.
You can also find textile recycling in many places, to take care of old stuffed toys. See what’s in your local area, so you can be sure your toys get disposed of safely and environmentally.
Before You Donate – What You Need to Know
There are a few things to note before you load up your trunk with toys to donate. Think about the following points when deciding when/what and where to donate old toys.
What does gently used mean?
Most charities will only accept toys that are new or gently used. A gently used toy is a toy without any major damage, all its pieces, and no broken parts.
Surface level scratches are okay, but anything that might affect function is a problem. If a toy is missing a piece, local places such as your doctor’s office may be ok with it, but it’s best to ask first.
If a toy still looks in good shape, then it’s probably fine to donate. If you want to get rid of it because it’s in too bad shape for your child, then take it to your recycling station instead.
How do I clean toys before donating?
Before donating toys they should always be cleaned. For soft toys, if you’re able to machine wash them you should. Otherwise, spray them down with a gentle disinfectant solution and handwash.
For wood or plastic toys, wipe them down with antibacterial surface cleaner. Many charities don’t have the time needed to clean toys, so dirty items have to go straight into the trash.
If a toy needs batteries, you should replace them before donating.
Should I call before making a toy donation?
Once you’ve found a place to donate to, give them a call before making a donation. What a place needs can change regularly. If you call them up you can confirm what’s needed, and even save yourself from a wasted trip.
A good charity can point you in the direction of somewhere else that may be looking. If a charity isn’t accepting toys at that moment, ask them when might be a good time to donate toys in the future.