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Toy Donations: Be Sure Items Are Worth Sharing

Clean, Good Condition, and Working Are Musts

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Unappreciated, unwanted or even duplicate toys should be shared with kids in need and can foster the virtue of sharing and philanthropy to children. Peak times for donating toys are following Christmas holidays when new items find their place on the favorite list, after birthdays, and during family spring cleaning or "unclutter" projects. But before you throw a bunch of no longer utilized toys in a bag and trot them off to a charity, please keep these these things in mind to guarantee a smile on the face of the proud new owner:

  • Donated toys should be safe and lead-free. Before you go to far in the used toy review, check and make sure that the toys you are donating have not been recalled, are lead-free (there are a lot of lists available on which toys have been found to contain lead), and are considered as a safe toy by you personally. Did you let your child play with the toy or did you worry about small pieces or other concerns. Have that same conversation before you donate to another family.


  • Donated toys should be clean. Charities report having to throw away many of the items received because they are filled with sand from a sandbox, caked in mud, are covered with dried-on food or other unidentifiable yuck, or covered with marker scribbles from the previous owner. While a family making a donation already has its heart in the right place, please take that generous gesture a step further by rinsing and drying toys, running parts through the dishwasher, or hand-cleaning them using soap and/or baking soda. Desanitize the toys as well to provide an extra-clean donation. Keep in mind that many charity organizations do not have washers/dryers or other ways to clean items, and the difference between clean and dirty may mean affect whether a toy is lovingly donated or simply tossed away.


  • Wash or spot-clean doll clothes and quick press it, if needed. An old doll to your child will be new to someone else, and extra effort to have the doll looking its best will guarantee extra love from a child. Fix the doll's hair, if needed, clean the face and make sure the clothes look mostly-new and fresh.


  • Be sure the donation still has its "loving feelin'." A donation is not a garbage alternative or a way to feel better about something your child used to love and you simply can't bear throwing it away--regardless of its condition. If it's chipped, ragged, chewed on or marked up, don't give it to charity. After all, what kid wants a toy that has bite marks all over it or a rag doll with permanent marker all over the face? If your child wouldn't want it, changes are, no other kid would either.

  • Do not donate anything with missing pieces. If you plan to donate a puzzle or game, be sure that all essential pieces are included. Who wants to assemble a puzzle with missing pieces? Before you donate that Monopoly set, be sure that the money, game board pieces, dice, and other items are included. If it is something minor that is missing (such as a game piece), consider finding a replacement item so that the game is still "shareable" and will be complete to the new recipient. Look at the board set itself and clean it and disinfect it as well. After all, some sticky fingers may very well have played the game in the past.


  • Do get a receipt for your donation and include it as a charitable gift when you file your tax return. Charitable giving comes from the heart, but there's a positive bonus that comes with being able to deduct your generous donation as well. Be sure to carefully follow Internal Revenue Service guidelines on charitable giving and to carefully note the condition of the item and value so you'll have the information when you need it for tax return time.


  • Involve your kids in decisions with charitable giving. Some parents "sneak" out old toys with the hope their youngsters won't notice that they are missing. While that may work with toddlers and others who hate to part with any item, charitable giving helps teach kids the value of sharing and generosity. One mom requires kids to donate one toy for every new one received during holidays and birthdays. Another family has established a monthly donation event, in which all family members go through their clothing and toy items and determine which ones no longer fit, are utilized, or played with. Then, together, they go to a charity of choice and make the donation as a family. Consider setting your own ways to foster goodwill and giving from the heart.


  • Consider asking your child's daycare, caregiver or school to pitch in for a "giving" campaign. If you know of a particular family, group, or community need, ask your child care provider to assist with collection efforts. Most likely, the provider will be all too happy to participate and quite happy someone has taken the initiative. "Show" kids the value of donating and sharing by having them all bring a toy that can be shared with their friends for the day, and then talk about how much happiness and fun that item contributed to the day.


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