Play Fair: Putting Old Toys To New Uses

When my daughter Grace was born 16 months ago, my husband Steve and I swore we wouldn’t let our home be run over with plastic, flashing, beeping toys. We’ve mostly avoided the “plastic, flashing, beeping” part but we haven’t done so well on the “not over-run” part. One corner of our living room (where we allocate the toys) is scattered 12 hours of the day with books, wooden blocks, stuffed animals, a shape sorter, and at times, assorted cardboard boxes. Some nights one of us shoves all the toys and books back into the big rattan toy box and the pink book basket, other nights we just sigh and walk away. Mostly it’s a sweet mess, since it means Grace has had a full, fun day.

Last week I realized Grace needed a toy upgrade. I don’t mean she needed some fancy new model of a toy, I just meant that when I wasn’t looking she moved beyond the baby rattles and push toys. Not wanting to spend a lot of money on new toys that will, like so many kids’ toys, be cast aside long before they’re worn out, my husband and I tried to think of creative ways to get some second-hand toys.

A trip to Goodwill yielded a plastic telephone (fun) and Grace’s first (and last) plastic-beeping-flashing toy that is driving me a little bit bonkers but she can’t get enough of it. A request to my die-hard garage-saling mother resulted in a huge bucket of like-new duplo building blocks that were only $1! They’ve been a huge hit. And then today our sweet neighbor boy, Nolan (age 4), showed up with two big stacks of his and his brother’s board books they’ve outgrown. As Nolan informed us, he is not “sharing” his books with Grace, they are Grace’s books (i.e. don’t even think about giving those baby books back to me!) So in the course of one week and for less than $10 Grace now has more than $150 worth of gently used toys and books, all which are age-appropriate and lots of fun. To me that just feels really good. Now if I could only figure out how to kill that beeping-flashing toy…

Do you have a great source for second-hand toys?



  1. KarenP said,

    June 18, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    I love consignment shops and Craigslist. Katelyn’s Closet in Multnomah Village has great stuff and I can always find what I’m looking for after a few days/weeks of diligent on Craigslist. As an early childhood specialist, I’ll encourage you to kill the beeping-flashing toy. Yes, Grace can’t get enough of it because her brain is hard-wired to respond to it–but that isn’t necessarily a good thing. She can’t get enough of it because she, literally, CAN’T stop paying attention to it. The nice thing about this age is that toys are easy come, easy go. It can disappear tonight and tomorrow, she’ll never miss it. I can soapbox as much as you want about why you don’t want the flashing-beeping toys and what types of toys are good choices, but I’ll let you ask before I get too far into my rant. :^)

    And before you go too far in your search for toys, don’t forget the free stuff. Boxes, trees, pots, and stones, to name a few! :^)

  2. Carol said,

    June 25, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Ohhhhh, I so agree about the beeping and flashing toys. They are such a horrible kid magnet…..sadly we seem to get them as gifts (which I usually donate elsewhere!). I have had a lot of luck at yard sales.

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