If you’re adding exciting new toys to your kid’s collection, some of their old ones might need swapping out. As kids grow, they develop new interests and skills, and former favorites get tossed aside like yesterday’s news. But unless those discarded toys are dirty or broken, don’t send them to the landfill: plenty of kids would love to give them a new home.
Here are some of the best places to donate toys, including electronics, stuffed animals, dolls and other playthings. Before you pack up the car, always call ahead to make sure the organization is currently accepting donations and whether they have any parameters you’ll need to follow. And while you’re on a decluttering spree, don’t miss the best places to donate clothes.
Many charities will accept gently used toys and distribute them to children in need. For example, thrift-store organizations like Goodwill and The Salvation Army will resell toys at a deep discount and use the profits to support their charitable work. Toys for Tots is a United States Marine Corps Reserve-run program that gives donated toys to kids who may not otherwise have any. Toys for Tots hosts large-scale toy drives around the holidays, but they also accept gently used toys year-round. Cradles to Crayons also accepts new and almost-new toys to benefit low-income families.
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2. Buy Nothing Groups
If you’re having a hard time finding somewhere nearby that will accept donations of gently used toys, that doesn’t mean your kid’s old things are destined for the dump. To cut out the middleman, try posting the items on your local Buy Nothing group. Don’t have one near you? List the toys on Freecycle or Craigslist. Make sure you disinfect the toys before you donate them, just like you would with any other charity.
Many hospitals and medical practices will accept donated toys for their young patients to play with, or to keep children entertained in the waiting room. Just keep in mind that most hospitals have strict hygiene policies and may not accept used toys. Contact the hospital or medical practice near you to learn more about their specific requirements. To get a sense of the most-needed items, check out this list from Mount Sinai of the toys patients want the most.
4. Children’s Homes and Shelters
Brighten a child’s day during a tough time in their life by sending them to a nearby children’s or women’s shelter. Contact the organization you’d like to help to find out any specifications they have in place, as well as how to get the toys to them. Your local children’s or social services office might also be able to direct you to children in the foster care system and other children in need who would greatly appreciate gently used toys. The Child Welfare Information Gateway is a good place to start.
5. Daycare Centers
If you’ve ever been to a daycare center, you know the sheer volume of kids can be rough on toys. Not all of them accept donations, but it’s always worth a shot. Especially you have a lot of lightly used toys that need a second life, contact a center in your area to see if they’re able to accept your items.
6. Police and Fire Departments
Police officers and firefighters often carry stuffed animals and other small toys with them to help comfort children at the scenes of traumatic events, and their supply of toys often depends on donations. Reach out to your local police and fire departments to see if they’re accepting them or running any toy drives for the holiday season. You can also send your items to Stuffed Animals for Emergencies. The organization accepts gently used stuffed animals, blankets, books, children’s clothes and baby items, and sends them to local organizations that can use the donations for youngsters in stressful situations.
7. Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and other Religious Organizations
The leader of your faith-based community may know of families within the congregation who could use a few new toys. Many even run toy drives or other charity initiatives during the holiday season to ensure kids and families can celebrate accordingly. The rest of the year, the facility itself may need toys or books to keep kids occupied during services or other events. Contact the children’s ministry coordinator or relevant staff member for more information about how you can help.
8. Recycling Programs
If the toys you’re looking to get rid of are soiled, torn or otherwise not in great shape, recycle them instead of tossing them in the trash. But before placing them in the bin, make sure your local recycling service accepts toys. Because they’re often made out of mixed materials, there may be special considerations. Otherwise, check out TerraCycle, which partners with Hasbro on a free, easy toy-recycling program. Just mail in your toys and they’ll be broken down into raw materials to make new ones. While this particular program is Hasbro-specific, TerraCycle has many other company partners, so it’s worth a little tooling around their website if you’ve got goodies from other manufacturers. Recycling may not make a great Toy Story plot, but it’s better for the environment.
As an Editorial Fellow for Good Housekeeping, Katie covers health, beauty, home, and pop culture. Outside of the office, you can find her killing it on the karaoke machine or listening to true crime podcasts.
Lizz (she/her) is a senior editor at Good Housekeeping, where she runs the GH Book Club, edits essays and long-form features and writes about pets, books and lifestyle topics. A journalist for almost two decades, she is the author of Biography of a Body and Buffalo Steel. She also teaches journalism as an adjunct professor at New York University’s School of Professional Studies and creative nonfiction at the Muse Writing Center, and coaches with the New York Writing Room.
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