The count down is on! With Christmas less than two weeks away, families everywhere are frantically shopping, cleaning, baking, and merry-making in preparation for Christmas. And in some homes, purging too! Trying to make space for all the new things that are coming into our home is a part of our annual Christmas traditions. And while it may take a bit more time and effort, it's important to me to find a way for our "out with the old" toys to find a good new home instead of a one way ticket to the island of misfit toys. With a bit of extra time and energy, going through old toys can make for a wonderful act of kindness and teachable moments with kids. Here are some easy suggestions on what to do with those old toys as you do your Christmas cleaning!
I love shopping second hand. For one, it helps to avoid the crowds and chaos of shopping malls at this time of year. Secondly, it's so environmentally friendly. I am always amazed at how much packaging comes with new toys. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have gotten many a mean paper or plastic cut trying to unleash a new toy from its excessive packaging! Alongside all of the wrapping paper, bows and baubles, the trash that builds up over Christmas leaves a huge footprint, and second hand shopping helps, in a small way, to lessen the impact. Extending the life of (often plastic) toys keeps them out of a landfill and writes another chapter in their toy story.
For all these reasons, I always try to have some second hand presents underneath the tree. And for my bucket of toys that are no longer played with in our house, we'll be selling them too, in our local facebook neighbourhood groups, hoping to find them a great new home.
Because new toys are so much easier to donate than old toys, consider this. Try selling some old toys and having your kids use the earnings to buy a new toy to donate to a child in need. That's always such a popular and relatable act of kindness for kids at this time of year.
Do a Toy Exchange
Similar to idea above of selling old toys above and extending their life and play cycle, consider doing a toy exchange. If you're hosting a holiday party, ask each family to bring a toy. Kids come with one toy that's no longer used, and leave with another that's full of new potential! You're not exactly decreasing the amount of stuff in your home, but at least you're cycling through toys and creating a moment of wonder and excitement for your little one, because getting something "new" (whether it's new from the store or from someone else's home) is always exciting!
While books are one of those things that you can really never have enough of, in my opinion, my shelf space might disagree. There are so many great ways to donate books in good condition. From your neighbourhood Little Free Library, to your kids' schools, to book banks like the Children's Book Bank in Toronto who accepts books year round, good books are always high in demand. Having your kiddos go through their libraries and choose a few titles to pass along is a great way to get them involved in giving back (and for some reason, sometimes parting with a few books is a little bit easier than a few toys). We've also been enjoying "Lending a book to a friend" as an act of kindness this year (a new one included in our "5 Minutes Matter" Add-on Sticker Set) which is so easy as an act of kindness and a great warm up for kids to practice parting with their cherished belongings. Remember, it's hard work for kids to say goodbye to their things, even when the motivation is altruistic, and sometimes they need a bit of practice. This is a great way.
Contact Early Year Centers and Daycares
Local Early Years Centers and Daycares are often in need of extra and diverse toys, for the many kids who cycle through their doors every day. So long as toys are in excellent condition, consider reaching out to these types of childcare centers in your neighbourhood to see if any of your toys, especially educational ones, are of interest.
For Toronto friends, check out the newly founded Tiny Toy Co - an upcycled approach to primary education and play-based learning founded by teacher-librarian (and founder of iSpy Clothing), Rebecca Saha. Rebecca collects tiny toys - those little plastic ones that you often get in loot bags or that you've lost matching pieces of, and that often get put straight in the trash - and uses her collections to piece together literary learning kits for young kids. It's an amazing approach to early childhood education and does wonders for upcycling little plastic parts. Check her out!
Find a Charity
And finally, while it sometimes takes some extra work, some charities do in fact take old toys and will distribute them to families in need who will enjoy them like new. You'll have to do some research in your own community, but as a few helpful hints, look for organizations who work directly with families and new mom populations, or organizations who tend to collect other items for moms and families. Toronto's The New Mom Project, for example, will take toys and get them into the hands of families in need.
Other charities, like Diabetes Canada, will also accept toys as part of their larger item collections, which are then sold to Value Village and proceeds used to fund research, education programs, service and advocacy. And the great thing about the Diabetes Canada Clothesline Program is that they do pick up direct from your door, which makes donating so easy (in fact I just scheduled a pick up for Dec 23 - perfect timing for the pre-Christmas purge!)
Hope these tips help to add a little kindness to your Christmas cleaning!
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