How NOT to donate kids toys

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It started with good intentions. I had just read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We had recently moved into a smaller home and I was grappling with the sheer amount of stuff we had. Everywhere I looked, my kids had toys. I was walking on Legos in the living room. Tripping over stuffy’s on the stairs. There were dolly’s and transformers and plastic food on the kitchen counters. It was time to donate kids toys.

Something had to go. I hoped that as I donated and tossed things, that my home would feel more manageable and easy to clean. I’m positive that you’ve probably felt the same way at some point. You just want to get rid of all the things.

The purge

Over a week or two, I quietly slipped every broken, unused, or annoying toy I could into a box in the living room. Anytime my kids asked what the box was for I just said I was cleaning up. To be fair to Marie, this isn’t the strategy that she endorses in the book. But, I was feeling impatient and there was no way I was going to wait for my three kids, age 5 and under, to decide which toys “spark joy” in their lives. So I decided for them and tossed them into the box.

Soon enough, the box was full and my living room was already looking a lot cleaner. One afternoon while my husband was still at work, I buckled my kids in their car seats and lugged the box to the back of my van where I quietly prayed that my kids wouldn’t put together the dots. Our thrift store has a drop off where they’ll unload for you. My plan was to stop, have them unload things and drive away before my kids got wise. I was going to donate kids toys if it was the last thing I did.

What I didn’t expect was for the man unloading my van to take the box and dump it out right next to my oldest son’s car window. I also didn’t expect the wailing that ensued when my son saw the dragon I had donated. Or the wailing that continued until we stopped to get gas. Where I committed a mom-sin and bought my children candy to shut them up. Yes. I used candy to appease the broken hearts of my preschool-aged children.

How to Purge and Donate kids toys

Through this experience, I realized there are a right way and a wrong way to donate your kids’ toys. I did it the wrong way. Let’s talk about the right way.

Involve your kids

If you want to avoid the crying and wailing, you have to let your kids be involved in the process of going through and donating toys. We all know that mom’s know best. But, your child will feel better about this process if they have a say.

Talk about why you donate kids toys

Tell your child to go through their toys and get rid of the ones they don’t want and it won’t go well. I’ve tried it. In that moment my children can find reasons why we shouldn’t get rid of the car with no wheels and the doll with no head. Instead of jumping in head first, talk to your kids about why you need to get rid of some toys. These reasons might include:

  • Less toys means easier cleanup
  • You can donate unused toys to kids who don’t have any toys
  • Less toys means more room to play with the toys they love

Create guidlines

Getting rid of anything is difficult. We struggle to do this as adults. Try not to leave things too open ended for your kids. Instead, talk about some guidelines your family can use to frame your toy donation plan. For example:

  • Keep like things together. Things like Legos or train sets need to be kept together for maximum fun.
  • Keep toys that encourage creativity and imagination. My family loves Magna Tiles and Legos because my kids can make everything from tall towers to ice cream cones. These are the toys that they play with over and over again.
  • Think about how often toys are played with. It’s less painful and more logical to donate toys that are less frequently used.
  • Donate cheap toys. You know the ones I’m talking about. Toys that your kids get from playing carnival games or in Easter eggs. Happy Meal toys. These toys can hang around forever but aren’t necessarily favorites, or even that much fun to play with.
  • Set a number. Some families set a limit on the number of toys they allow their kids to keep. Choose your number and give your kids the chance to think about what they’d like to keep

Take your time

You are excited about clearing the extra toys from your house. Your kids, on the other hand, probably need a little time to process the idea. Talk about your donation plan with your kids often and give them a week or two to help you choose what to donate. It might seem like a slow process, but your kids will be happier and you won’t break their trust in the process. It’s crucial you take your time when you donate kids toys.

Donating old or unused toys is a great way to clear space in your home for things that you love. It’ll also spark creativity and help your kids to play longer. They’ll be happier in a space that isn’t cluttered with too many toys. Involving your children in your toy donation plan will help teach them the value of minimizing clutter and donating to those in need.

Have you ever donated toys without telling your kids? Tell me that I’m not the only one!

2 thoughts on “How NOT to donate kids toys”

  1. Haha, you’re not the only one! We use Purple Heart Pick-up, otherwise it would never happen. I’ve taken things without discussion, but my kids were younger, only 2 and 3. Often we do things the wrong way the first time! What I like to do is pack up things and say they are going into the basement so we have more room. I put chosen items in the basement. If they don’t ask for them after a few weeks, I know I can go through again and donate some things.

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one! I love the idea of taking a slow approach so I know my kids are ready to get rid of things. I love to get new ideas! Thanks for commenting!

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