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Toy overload! To keep or donate?

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

As you begin to sort through the post-holiday craze, you will undoubtedly find an overwhelming amount of toys. The new toys the kids got for the holidays don't have a home, and if you're anything like me, you're overwhelmed and about ready to just burn it all down at this point. Fight the urges of arson and lets work through how to choose which toys are worth saving and which toys should hit the donation bin.

Toy sorting guide

The best thing you can do is just pick a toy and start. Walk through these questions to determine which pile to put the toy into: Donate it, Store it, Save it.

Has it been played with in the last few months?

Pick up a toy and see if you can say if that toy has been played with in the last few months. The exact timeline is up to your discretion, but I would say 2-3 months is a good place to start. If you can confidently say yes, add that toy to the keep pile! If your kids are enjoying a toy, there is probably no reason to discard it just yet.

If, on the other hand you can’t remember when it was last played with or if it has been more than a few months, ask yourself if your child has had easy, independent access to the toy.

Has it been easily accessible?

Think about if your child was playing entirely alone, could they easily find and reach the toy? Is it stored low to the ground within their reach? Is it organized and easy to find or has it been buried or cluttered? If it isn’t easily to access independently, your child won’t play with even the best toys! Think about your closet. If your clothes were all stored in a big box with no folding or organization, where it’s difficult to find what you want, instead of hung up or folded in drawers, would you be able to wear many of your clothes as often? Probably not! I’m certainly not going to search that hard every day. What if most of your clothes were all stored on a shelf too high for you to reach? You certainly won’t ask for help every morning (maybe sometimes), but mostly you would make do with what is within reach. This is why it is so important for us to consider how we display and store toys for our kids! If they can’t reach it, it will either be too much of a hassle and get skipped or will be out of sight out of mind. Either way the toy won’t get used often. Similarly, if it is a giant mess or a large bin of miscellaneous, that toy could be the very best one you own and it still won’t get played with. SO, before you toss that toy in the donate pile, ask yourself if your child can realistically access that toy? If not, let’s remedy that toy storage (or rotate your toys) first!

Try some open, low bins that allows your child easy access and organization like this one from Amazon:

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Is the toy open-ended?

If your child has not been playing with a toy that they can reach, does that toy allow for open-ended play? Open-ended toys are those that don’t give your child a storyline or tell your child how to play with it. Toys with a lot of flashing lights and noises and such often times play for your child instead of serving as a tool for the child’s play. This takes away from the child’s opportunity to learn through that play and it also limits the life expectancy of that toy. Toys that aren’t open-ended are closed off and limited in their different uses in play, and while they are not inherently bad, they will likely limit play options and will serve a much more limited age range. If a toy is open ended, it allows for creative play in many different ways making it more fun, longer lasting, and a better tool for your child to learn through play. Examples of open-ended toys are things like dolls, blocks, balls, dress-up, stuffed animals, musical instruments, and SO much more. (If you’re unsure, shoot me a message!)

Is it still age appropriate?

If the toy is often still played with, it honestly doesn’t really matter if the toy was “intended” for their age group (those age recommendations are a rant for another day). IF, however, the toy hasn’t been played with recently, consider if it is still a good tool for their current age. (If you’re unsure, shoot me a message!) If you think it’s age appropriate, great!

Can it be used in another way or at another age?

I am a huge proponent of repurposing great toys at different ages. Most really great or open-ended toys can be repurposed in other ways! A pop tube that was great sensory exploration and entertainment for a 9 month old can also be a great tool in sensory bins or calming kits for years to come! This comes back to the benefits to open-ended toys! Even something as simple as a favorite TV character on your child's toy (which seems like a great draw at the time) could drop their years of interest from 8 years of play to 1 or 2. That being said, so many toys can be used in other ways! Something as simple as organizing or categorizing the toy differently could get extra years of love and play out of that toy! If a toy can be used in another way or at another age, keep it! (If you need ideas of how to repurpose a toy, message me!)

Do you have younger kids (or plan to)?

This may seem obvious, but if one child is done with a toy, save it for future kiddos! Every kid will have different likes and dislikes and even a toy that maybe wasn’t something your child loved, may be perfect for a different kid! Even if you have a different gender for your next little one, you never know, monster trucks may be your little girl’s passion, so don’t write them off just yet! If it isn’t a great time for your next little one to use it yet (and if you have the space to do so), store that toy!

Does that toy have sentimental value?

If the toy was passed down for generations, or holds sentimental value for you for any reason, don’t feel like you need to part with it. If it’s sentimental to you, but your child is done with it, store that toy! If it isn’t sentimental for your family, and can’t be repurposed, it’s definitely time to donate the toy! There are SO many children around the state, country, and world who would love to get a gently used toy to play with! There are also so many organizations out there to help you get those toys to kids in need, so let’s find a great place for you to take your donation pile!

Where should I take the donation pile?

I know we all have busy schedules and this decluttering rampage has been taxing, but let’s get some good, clean, toys to kids who can love them once again. Before donating a toy, check to make sure it is still in good shape and please take a minute to clean and sanitize it for the next kid! Here is a (in no way exhaustive) list of toy donation options.


Kids in the Foster system rarely have the things they need, so please consider donating to a program in your area!


The BuyNothing Project is a hyper-local way to donate gently used things to others in your immediate area.


Organizations like Toys for Tots accept gently used toy donations to provide gifts for kids all over the world!


Second Chance Toys aims to keep good toys out of landfills. If there is not a location nearby, for those with over 50 gently used plastic toys, they will help arrange a drop-off location.


Hospitals and fire stations often take donations of these items but it will need to be new or gently used and properly sanitized, so check their requirements!


Stuffed Animals for Emergencies accepts donations and works with local organizations that need them for children who are victims of trauma or abuse.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America accepts certain types of used toys through their foundation.


Donation Town will help you find local charities that will pick up your donations and find them a great home!


Early Childhood centers like Head Start accept toy donations to provide high quality toys to the low-income children the facilities serve.


Homeless and women's shelters always need clothing and toy donations for the families who come through their doors, so find a shelter near you!


You can always take your used toys to the Salvation Army or GoodWill to thrift your items, where they will be resold at a reduced price.


Enlist helpers

It may not be easy, and will take some time, maybe even slowly over the next few months, but I hope this helps you declutter your toys and your lives, and prevents you from burning it all to the ground today. If you can, try to have your kids help you go through their toys! And I know you’re thinking, “Kori you’re crazy, they will slow this down and make it way harder”, and I know that is probably true today, but just like teaching your toddler to get dressed by themselves, or help clean the house, it’s a long-term investment! If your kid gets in the habit of loving and letting go of things that no longer serve them now, it will save you time, space, and heartache later! Plus, you wouldn’t want to come home to find that someone went through your closet and tossed a bunch of your clothes without your knowledge or permission! So try to let it go and be okay with them saving some toys that were destined for the donation pile, you can always circle back to that in a few months. And who knows, maybe they will find a long-lost toy that will serve them well for longer than you imagined!

If you have any questions about what to do with your toys, message me, I’d love to chat!


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