Christmas giving: Where to donate used toys and zero-waste gifts to children in need

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Make this holiday season extra special with the spirit of Christmas giving. Donate used toys and zero-waste gifts to bring smiles to children who need them

Estimated Read Time: 6 minutes

Did you know the average American spends approximately $1000 on Christmas each year?

The most wonderful time of the year for some can be the hardest for others. In 2023, over 11 million children in the United States are living in families with incomes below the federal poverty level.

For many parents and caregivers, the daily cost of living is a challenge so it’s easy to see how the holidays can add to the pressure. Not to mention, many children are separated from their families during the holidays, due to illness or family circumstances.

If you’re lucky enough to know you’ll be getting all the gifts on your wish list, why not spread the Christmas spirit by donating gifts to those who aren’t so fortunate?

Donating used toys can be a great way to clear out space before new things arrive. It gives them a second lease of life and keeps them out of landfills. It also softens the sentimental blow, as you know you or your children’s favorite playmates continue to bring smiles to other children.

For many children and families, receiving something shiny and new feels extra special. If you’re able to, consider buying a gift for a child who might otherwise receive one. You can make this act of kindest extra loving by buying zero-waste gifts that are reusable or biodegradable.

Want to spread some festive cheer but not sure how? Here’s our guide to Christmas giving!

Why donate used toys at Christmas?

There are many reasons to donate used toys and zero-waste gifts at Christmas, that benefit you, others, and the planet:

For you:

  • It clears space in your home for this year’s gifts
  • It helps you be more conscious and mindful of what you need/ use
  • It’s an opportunity to talk to your children about those less fortunate, and the importance of giving

For others:

  • It gives a child a gift who might not otherwise receive one
  • It could make Christmas an easier time of year for a family or caregiver
  • It could brighten someone’s day (or even their year!)

For the planet:

  • It keeps the item out of landfills (especially if it’s plastic!)
  • It contributes to a more circular economy

‘Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart’ - The Polar Express

What used toys can I donate?

Toy Story toys stood together looking at a child leaving.

Photo by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

Before you dig through your cupboards for forgotten favorite toys, there are a couple of things to consider when deciding whether to donate them.

1. Are they in decent condition?

No one wants to receive something that’s broken and battered beyond repair, especially if it’s going to end up in a landfill a couple of days after it’s received. Consider whether it’s something your younger self or your own children would want to play with.

2. Do they stand the test of time?

It’s best to send gifts that children will recognize and love. Classics like trainsets, dollhouses, wooden games, and wooden ride-on toys stand the test of time, as well as more recent toys.

3. Do they meet today’s safety standards?

If the used toys are old, be careful they’re still considered safe and acceptable by today’s standards. You can check online if they’ve been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission recall list.

4. Are they clean? (or can they be cleaned?)

Make sure to clean and sanitize the toys you intend to donate. Remove dead batteries, wash soft toys and stuffed animals in laundry bags, and clean plastic toys with soap or disinfectant wipes.

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving."- MotherTheresa

Why give zero-waste gifts at Christmas?

A child playing with toy cars

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Maybe you don’t have any used toys lying around, or you want to make your Christmas shopping extra special this year. If this is you, consider purchasing something new for a child in need.

Just like donating used toys, this has lots of different benefits that capture the true spirit of Christmas giving.

Inspiring loved ones

You can tell your loved ones that you’re spending a little less on them, so you can donate a gift to someone who needs it more. We’re sure they’ll understand and even be inspired!

A gift on someone’s behalf

If you have a loved one who always says they don’t want anything new, you can show you care about them by donating a gift to a cause they care about on their behalf.

Helping a child feel loved

You can make Christmas an easier time for a child who, for whatever reason, is separated from their family.

Making a family's life easier

You can help parents and caregivers who can’t afford gifts, by buying something unique and special they can give to their child.

And by choosing zero-waste gifts, you’ll be helping others without harming the planet too. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out our collection of zero-waste and sustainable kid's toys.


5 Places to donate used toys and zero-waste gifts


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If you want to donate your used toys or zero-waste gifts but aren’t sure where to start, try these 5 places:

1. Non-profit organizations

Non-profit organizations that accept used and new donations include:

Check to see where the items are being donated so you can know exactly who is benefitting from them!

2. Social Services

If you have a loved one who always says they don’t want anything new, you can show you care about them by donating a gift to a cause they care about on their behalf.

3. Hospitals

Some children may be spending the holiday season in hospital and your donations and gifts will help lift their spirits. Your local hospital might even have a toy wish list online that will tell you what they’re looking for.

Before you donate used toys, double check they accept them as some won’t due to hygiene reasons.

4. Shelters

Women’s and homeless shelters can be temporary homes for many children who have few possessions. They can be a great place to send toys that’ll brighten a child (and their parents!) holiday season.

To find a local shelter search the Homeless Shelters Directory and get in touch to find out how to donate.

The Spirit of Christmas Giving

3 children sat on a doorstep laughing and hugging

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Like the stories of Ebenezer Scrooge or The Christmas Grinch teach us, the true spirit of Christmas is found when we start thinking about others.

Conscious Christmas giving – donating toys and zero-waste gifts – is a way to make the holidays special for every child, whatever their circumstances.

Not only that, but it helps contribute to a more circular economy. Toys that would otherwise end up in landfills get a second lease of love and life, and sustainable brands selling zero-waste toys get your support.

If you’d like to put a smile on someone’s face this season, Christmas giving with donated toys or zero-waste gifts might be the best way!

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