If you have kids, you know how quickly your home can become overrun with toys. Worse, they seem to outgrow or lose interest in them almost as fast as you buy them.
So if your house is starting to look like a toy hoarder’s paradise, never fear. There are plenty of places you can donate your kids’ gently used toys.
This has benefits beyond merely decluttering your living space. If you take the charitable contribution tax deduction, you could reap significant financial benefits. Either way, you’ll be helping out a good cause.
Where to Donate Used Toys
Many types of nonprofits take donations of gently used toys. They use these donations in different ways:
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- Selling the donated toys and using the proceeds to support badly needed programming or cash transfers to help low-income families buy toys for their kids.
- Distributing the toys directly to underprivileged kids.
- Making toys available to kids who use their services, providing a source of comfort or entertainment during potentially difficult times.
Of course, you don’t have to choose just one recipient organization. You can divvy up your toy donations to as many nonprofit organizations as you like.
Getting Your Kids Involved
If your kids are reluctant to part with their toys, involve them as you research your donation options. They’re more likely to get on board this way because they’ll see their toys going to new homes where other kids will love them as much as they did.
Taking a Tax Deduction on Your Donations
If you’re angling to take a tax deduction on your donation, make sure your donation centers of choice are tax-exempt nonprofits. Otherwise, your donations might not qualify for deductions.
Restrictions and Limitations on Donated Toys
Be aware every organization has their own guidelines for the toys they accept and in what condition. Most require toys to be in good condition: Toys should be clean, free of damage, and in working condition.
Many toy donation centers limit donations to plastic toys, as stuffed animals have the potential to transfer germs. Those that do accept stuffed animals, such as Stuffed Animals for Emergencies, have specific guidelines for how to clean stuffed animals before donating them.
So before dropping off your old toys, call ahead or check the website to verify the types of items the organization accepts and that you’ve cleaned or prepared them properly. If the charity can’t use what you have to donate, it’s likely they can refer you to somewhere else that can.
Even if the charity or organization doesn’t have their own set of guidelines or specific requirements, it’s always helpful to follow standard procedures for how to donate your stuff, as it ensures your chosen recipient can get the most value from your donation.
Goodwill is one of the most popular nonprofit organizations to donate all kinds of household items, including toys, books, CDs, and children’s clothing. Thus, one of the best things about donating your toys to Goodwill is you can do a complete cleanout of your kids’ closets and drop all your stuff off in one place.
Goodwill sells donated items in its brick-and-mortar thrift stores and uses the profits to fund its programs, which focus on employment training and job-placement for those with barriers to employment.
Gently used toys are one of the most sought-after items available at Goodwill. Many thrifty parents look to buy toys secondhand to save money or the environment, since kids go through them so fast.
Goodwill accepts donations of toys, games, and sporting equipment for children of all ages. Donations should be in good condition. However, Goodwill rarely denies donations unless the products are unsafe or have been recalled.
To donate, drop off your used toys at your local Goodwill donation center, which you can find using the store locator on Goodwill’s website.
2. The Salvation Army
Like Goodwill, the Salvation Army resells all kinds of home goods, including toys, in their thousands of nationwide thrift stores.
Donating your gently used toys to the Salvation Army enables low-income families to shop for inexpensive toys their kids can play with. And the proceeds from the sale of your donations funds their charitable programs.
Specifically, proceeds from their thrift stores support its adult rehabilitation centers, which help those with drug and alcohol addiction overcome their addictions, build work skills, and restore their families.
The Salvation Army accepts gently used toys of all kinds including games, sporting equipment, electronics, and bicycles.
You can drop off your toys yourself at a local donation center, which you can find by searching the Salvation Army’s thrift stores website. Or you can schedule a home pickup. Just enter your zip code on the site, list your donations for pickup, and schedule a pickup date.
You don’t have to be home for the pickup. Just leave your donation outside marked with an “SA” for Salvation Army.
3. Stuffed Animals for Emergencies
Stuffed Animals For Emergencies (SAFE) is one of the rare toy donation organizations that specifically solicits donations of new and gently used stuffed animals. It distributes them directly to children who’ve experienced a traumatic or emotional situation, such as a fire, accident, illness, neglect, abuse, homelessness, or natural disaster.
In areas where there is an active SAFE chapter, you can send them your donations, and they will clean your stuffed animals and then find local places that can use your donations. However, be aware that SAFE currently only has chapters in four states: Florida, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio.
You can also donate to an urgent need area, which is an area requesting donations that doesn’t have an active chapter. There are currently urgent need locations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.
If you choose to send your donation to an urgent need area, you must wash your gently used stuffed animals using their cleaning guidelines.
Alternatively, you can donate by hosting your own stuffed animal toy drive. That could be especially motivating for kids if you’re inspired to get your neighbors involved in a spring cleaning-a-thon, if you live in an area hit by a natural disaster, or if you want to encourage your kids to give back in a bigger way.
4. The Arc
The Arc is the nation’s largest community-based advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Their local chapters accept donations of physical items, including toys, which they resell in their thrift stores, similar to other national charities like Goodwill or Salvation Army.
The proceeds fund their programs. Additionally, their thrift stores provide work experience for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Accepted items vary by chapter, but in general chapters are likely to accept toys and games in good condition. To find out what they accept or to schedule a pick up, contact your local chapter, which you can find by visiting The Arc’s website.
Operated by the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), ClothingDonations.org accepts toy donations in 32 states plus Washington D.C.. Despite the name, the VVA helps all U.S. veterans, not just those of a particular war or age group. Its work includes helping homeless and disabled vets and financing their medical care. It also has a strong mission to help women and minority veterans.
Despite the name, it resells all kinds of donated household goods, including donated toys, to generate funding for the VVA’s local, state, and national programs.
Best of all, donating to ClothingDonations.org is super easy and convenient. Just visit the website and enter your postal code to schedule a free pickup. Then gather your donations, leave your labeled stuff outside your door, and someone from the organization will pick up your things.
6. Donation Town
If you’re looking for an easy way to connect with local charities who offer donation pickup services, visit Donation Town. Simply fill in your zip code on the online site and get a list of local organizations that will pick up your toys for free. You can also schedule the pickup directly on the site.
Donation Town also links you to charities that can accept a wide variety of household items, such as children’s clothing, electronics, and furniture. That makes it a convenient option if you have more to donate than toys.
7. Local Thrift Stores
You can donate your toys to national thrift store chains like Goodwill and Salvation Army, but there’s liable to be at least one locally owned thrift store in your community too. Consider supporting them instead of the big players.
A word of caution: Some local thrift stores are for-profit, which means you won’t be able to take the charitable tax deduction for your donated items. But, if nothing else, local thrift stores give your used toys a second life and keep them out of the landfill — while freeing up more storage space in your home for more kids’ toys.
8. Foster Care Programs
Your local social services department can connect you with a variety of kids who would love to play with your family’s gently used toys. The neediest among them could be foster kids or kids who live together in group homes who have few if any toys of their own.
Alternatively, many foster programs specifically solicit toy donations for foster kids. FosterCares in Roswell, Georgia is one example. To find a program in your area, do an online search with “foster care toy donation” + “near me.”
Foster care programs and group homes are also ideal places to donate larger items like bicycles. Even if foster children are only temporarily passing through, bikes can stay put for multiple kids’ use, whereas other charities and organizations might require donations of smaller, more portable toys intended for single use.
9. Day Care Centers
Day care centers and preschools are in constant need of new toys. Child care centers use toys to keep young children’s minds stimulated with play throughout the day. And even preschools incorporate toys into the learning curriculum, as young kids learn best through play.
But child care center toys get lots of use, which means they wear out quickly and break often. Centers thus constantly need fresh playthings.
I’ve personally donated many toys and excess craft supplies to my son’s preschool, and they’ve been happy to have them.
If your kids are still attending day care or preschool, ask yours if they could use a donation. If not, consider starting your search with Head Start, a federal government-run preschool initiative for children of low-income families.
Many early childhood programs in lower-income communities aren’t lucky enough to have adequate toys and books for their youngest students. But you can help fill the need with your donations. Find a location near you by searching online, and then call ahead to see if the center is accepting toy donations.
10. After-School Programs
After-school programs give kids safe spaces to play or do homework once school gets out. Used toys, especially sporting equipment and games, help younger kids occupy their time while they’re waiting for their parents to get out of work.
I worked in various after-school programs for years, and we always had board games and puzzles on hand. The kids turned to them time and again, especially classics like Monopoly, Sorry, Connect Four, and Battleship. We purchased some of these with program funds, but generous school families also donated a lot of them.
Even if your child doesn’t attend an after-school program, chances are their school has one. So start there. Contact your child’s own school to see if the after school program accepts toy donations. If not, inquire in nearby communities that may have greater need.
11. Doctor’s Offices
Chances are you’ve seen plenty of kids’ toys at your children’s pediatrician’s office. As a parent, you know it can be hard for kids — especially young kids — to wait for an appointment. Toys keep them entertained while they’re in the waiting room or exam room.
Check with your local doctor’s office to see what they need. You can also donate toys to dentists’ offices, orthodontists’ offices, and other specialists’ offices, such as mental health centers.
Start with your own doctors and dentists and see if they could use a donation of gently used toys for their waiting rooms.
12. Children’s Hospitals
Like doctor’s offices, children’s hospitals also use toys to keep kids entertained in waiting rooms and exam rooms. They also need toys for kids to play with while they’re staying in the hospital recovering from surgeries or illnesses.
Many hospitals solicit toy donations to fill this need. In fact, your local hospital may even have a toy wish list posted on its website that you can check for its current needs.
Be aware that most hospitals won’t accept toys that aren’t new due to the risk of spreading germs. Some hospitals do accept gently used items, especially games.
13. Women’s and Homeless Shelters
Shelters, specifically women’s and homeless shelters, are often overlooked as places to donate toys. But because they often host vulnerable young people who end up sheltering with few possessions, most gratefully accept toy donations.
If you’re in the midst of decluttering the whole house, shelters welcome donations of other stuff too, such as clothing, bedding, and toiletries.
To find a local shelter to donate to, search the Homeless Shelters Directory. When you find one, ask a representative what toys they accept and how and when to drop them off.
14. Children’s Museums
There are plenty of children’s museums in the U.S. that would welcome your donations to enhance their exhibits. They’re especially fond of plastic toys.
Children’s museums typically include play areas with small tactile toys children can explore with their hands or use in imaginative play. These include things like plastic food, plates and utensils, blocks and other building objects, and pretend play toys like doctor’s stethoscopes or firefighter hats.
Some examples of U.S. children’s museums that welcome toy donations include the Strong Museum of Play, Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, and the North Platte Area Children’s Museum. If there’s a children’s museum in your area, contact it directly to see if it accepts donations and if there are any specific requirements.
15. Animal Shelters
Animal rescues and pet shelters almost always need donated supplies, and that includes toys — provided they’re safe for the animals. As much as dogs love to chew and rip up stuffed animals, and cats love to pounce on small furry or feathered toys, a stressed or traumatized animal may just appreciate having something to cuddle with.
So if you have any stuffed animals or plastic toys that would make good chew or pounce toys for a dog or cat, they might be good candidates for animal shelter donations.
Search the Internet for animal shelters or rescues that accept toy donations near you. Some animal shelters have donation information available on their websites, which may include detailed wish lists or give guidelines for acceptable donations. If not, call the shelter and ask directly if they’re taking toy donations and what kind.
Before donating, ensure the toys don’t have any small parts that animals can rip off and ingest, such as button eyes. Likewise, make sure the toys don’t contain any stuffing material that could be harmful if swallowed.
16. Police and Fire Departments
Police officers and firefighters often carry small stuffed animals to comfort scared children at the scene of traumatic events. And local departments often rely on the public for donations to keep a ready supply. So call your local police or fire department to find out if they could use a donation of gently used stuffed animals.
If your local police or fire department doesn’t accept toys year-round, consider waiting until the winter holiday season. That’s when many police and fire departments serve as central drop-off locations for clothing, food, and toy drives.
As long as your kids’ toys are still in decent condition, you’ll have no trouble finding a place to donate them. You can feel good about keeping them out of a landfill while contributing to a worthy cause — and you could even get a financial kickback if you’re able to claim from the charitable tax deduction.
Perhaps best of all, you get the chance to teach your kids some valuable money lessons while organizing and decluttering their stuff. And if donating their things to worthy causes isn’t enough to motivate them, you may even try a bigger financial incentive — like reselling them.
In fact, as a mom myself, I can tell you this is the only way I’ve been able to motivate my own son to declutter his toys — by telling him he gets to keep whatever money he makes from selling them to buy new ones.
So if you have toys that are potentially valuable, especially toys featuring popular characters that are in like new or very good condition and still have all their pieces, consider reselling them on a site like eBay or Craigslist. Or, you can do what I typically do, and resell them in a local consignment sale, or even a garage sale.
On the other hand, if your kids’ toys are in neither resale nor donation condition, you can still avoid tossing them in the trash by investigating recycling options. For example, you can give stuff away for free through Freecycle.
Or look to see if the manufacturer of the toy you’re about to toss offers a recycling program like one of the many offered through Terracycle. With Terracycle, you can even recycle toys for rewards, depending on the brand.