Toys! I remember when my first son was born, I had very strict intentions of maintaining a minimalist household. Only essential baby and toddler gear, baby capsule wardrobes, zero waste baby food, and of course, minimal toy clutter.
Fast forward 4.5 years, an isolating pandemic and a second kid later, I gave in. The thing is, there is just something about receiving a “new” toy that is so thrilling to my boys. It quickly became a bit of a habit for me to scroll second hand marketplaces for fun toys and kids gear to add to their collections.
While I do my fair share of reselling and donating, I absolutely love the idea of hosting a “Toy Swap” as an alternative to acquiring (and storing) more!
What is a Toy Swap?
A toy swap is a social way for you to exchange toys that your kid(s) currently own but no longer use with other families who have kids that might enjoy them.
It’s a great opportunity to not only declutter a handful of toys your kids no longer use, but also to replace them with “new” toys that your kids would be excited to try – at zero cost to you or other attendees!
It’s a free, low waste way to expose your kids to new toys and learning tools while also providing a valuable opportunity to connect with other families in your community. Win, win win!
How to Host a Toy Swap
There aren’t any hard rules to hosting a toy swap. With that said, you have the option to enforce whatever parameters feel good to you, and encourage your guests to follow suit. Here are some considerations before you start planning.
In my opinion, the only essential parameter that should be set is the guest list. Try to invite parents of children that are within a similar age range.
This will eliminate the unfortunate possibility of someone with older kids attending a swap with parents of toddlers. Their kids will have grown out of toddler toys so they would likely leave that toy swap either disappointed or empty handed (or both).
If you aren’t already plugged into a group of parents with kids the same ages as yours, consider inviting some (or all!) of the parents from your child’s class at school. Alternatively, you can search for local parent/family groups on Facebook and put a post out asking if parents with kids in your desired age group might be interested in participating.
With or Without Kids?
There are pros and cons to inviting kids to also attend the swap.
- Kids can help guide their parents to choose toys they are actually interested in – no guessing or assuming what they’d be most interested in!
- More parents might be able to attend if it means they don’t have to arrange for childcare at the time of your toy swap.
- Kids might feel disappointed if they don’t get to go home with the “popular” toy at the toy swap.
- Kids might suddenly feel more sentimental about the toys you agreed to donate at the swap when they see other children playing with them.
- Big feelings all around.
Structured or Unstructured
Again, you get to set the rules of your toy swap! Here are some options when it comes to structuring your swap:
You can set a specific toy category for your swap. Maybe you just want to host a kids book swap. Or maybe you want to swap toys and books within a theme like vehicles, dinosaurs, princesses, or something of the like.
Number of Toys
You can also request that attendees bring a set number of toys to your swap. If each guest brings 3-5 toys vs just one, the likelihood that everyone goes home with a new and exciting toy for their family is that much higher.
Once everyone arrives, how do you actually organize the “swap?” Here are a few options:
A simple method is to have each guest draw a number from a hat. Have guests take turns choosing toys in number order. If you have more than one toy per guest, you can start at number 1 for the first round, then start with the highest number for the second round and work backwards.
You can spice things up by offering options to “steal” toys when it’s your turn (like a White Elephant exchange), or keep it low key.
Ticket Per Toy
If you host a larger event, it might help keep everyone organized if you use a ticketing system. One ticket for one toy is a simple system.
Or you can offer parents additional tickets for higher value toys. This system might require “pricing” toys as they’re donated (e.g. books are 1 ticket, electronics are 4 tickets, etc.). It’s more complicated and might be best reserved for toy swaps with multiple volunteers managing the process.
Free for All
If you have a smaller group and you don’t want to game-ify the event, you can make it a free for all exchange. Everyone gets to contribute a set number of toys and then take a comparable amount back home with them.
Lastly, consider a mix of the above options! Perhaps you have a group bring 4 toys each and you do two rounds of selecting toys in number order then after that it’s a free for all.
If you have unwanted toys left behind at the end of your toy swap, make plans to arrange for a donation drop off. With that said, don’t feel guilty about trashing unwanted toys that are simply in poor condition. No need to burden donation centers with broken or stained toys!
Provide Boxes or Bags
Besides food and drinks (mainstays at every good gathering), consider offering guests large bags or boxes to corral their new toys. Simply recycle shopping bags or delivery boxes you have recently received.
Doing this will keep everyone organized and minimize any obligation for you to follow up with folks the following week or deliver forgotten toys!
The most important part of hosting a toy swap is to enjoy time spent with the other attendees. This is an excellent time to develop friendships with other parents in your community.
These are such valuable relationships (more valuable than any toys at the swap) so I hope that you ultimately walk away from your toy swap with a few more local friends than you had before. Enjoy!