7 Places to Donate Toys This Christmas

If you’re looking to donate new or gently used toys this season, add these seven places to your list.

By Holly Garcia

The holidays are here. It’s the season of cheer, and what better way to get your family in the Christmas spirit than by giving back? Yes, kids understand the excitement and anticipation that comes with Christmas morning, so can you imagine how incredible it would be to inspire that same feeling for someone else by giving back?

“Donating things and/or volunteering time can have a healthy impact on your child’s development,” says Mery Taylor, PhD, child psychologist with Children’s Health of Orange County. “It can help establish a sense of community and cultivate feelings of gratitude. It can improve their physical health, and encouraging children to commit random acts of kindness is a wonderful way for them to learn empathy.” In short, the benefits of giving back are innumerable. It helps others—and helps you help yourself.

Of course, it may not seem that way, especially to children. During the holidays, donating is probably the furthest thing from their mind. But it doesn’t have to be. You can make giving back a Christmas tradition. Parents’ associate editor Kimberly Zapata has her children donate toys twice a year, and many others do the same.

So where can you donate this holiday season? We’ve put together a few ideas to get you and your little elves started.

Buy Nothing Groups

These groups are a great destination for toys to have a second life. In the past, donations of diapers, formula, and other essentials were popular, but things are changing. People (and parents) are always on the lookout items they want, need, and things to read—particularly during the holiday season.

Not sure where to begin? The Buy Nothing Project will help connect you with an organization in your area. You can also check social media, as many buy nothing groups live in or on community pages.

Charities and Local Toy Drives

Numerous charities accept toy and stuffed animal donations during this time of year. The Salvation Army and Toys for Tots are a couple of big names that come to mind, but take a look online for local charities that are accepting donations. For example, in Uvalde, Texas, an advocacy group, Luna Liaisons, is trying to spread a little extra joy this season to the Robb Elementary School survivors.

Children’s Hospitals

No child wants to be in the hospital for Christmas, but unfortunately, many are. Not only is the holiday season prime time for viruses and bugs, but some kids have longer stays regardless. Many conditions must be treated year-round. But you and your kiddos can make a difference by donating toys, books, puzzles, games, and other items that pediatric patients love. These gifts can leave a lasting impact and bring both pleasure and joy. Just check with your area hospital to see what they may need—and if there are any restrictions.

Daycare Centers

If your child has ever gone to daycare, you know all about the wear and tear toys go through. Call ahead to see if they take gently used toy donations or offer to pick up something brand new. Just remember: Most daycares will only accept toys that can be easily cleaned. Board books are a great example, as are items made of plastic.

Foster Care Centers and Shelters

Children and families who find themselves in shelters any time of year could always use a little cheer. Most of the circumstances leading up to kids being in these places are traumatic and life-changing, so having the comfort of a stuffed animal to cuddle can make all the difference.

Police and Fire Departments

More often than not, when kids end up with police or firefighters, it’s not a happy or easy circumstance. Having a toy or stuffy to keep them calm and centered might not seem like a lot, but with the chaos of the events that brought them there, it will bring them comfort. Even if these departments don’t directly take donations for their organizations, a lot of the time they are centralized drop-off places for local toy drives.

Synagogues, Mosques, Churches, and Other Religious Organizations

Faith-based organizations are usually another centralized drop-off location for toy donations during the holidays. Some even run their own toy drives and donation efforts for members so every child has a little something. Not to mention, many of these spaces accept donations for members use. While folks gather there to worship, their kids are kept entertained by the toys.

The Takeaway

It’s easy to get in the holiday spirit when you are gifting and, as corny as it may sound, the best gift you can receive is heart-warming joy and cheer. Whether you are giving a brand-new toy or a much-loved teddy that has more love to give, the heart-bursting (and sometimes tear-inducing) joy is unparalleled. Donating is a great example to set for your kids, and honestly, there is nothing like the feeling of knowing you’re helping light up a child’s Christmas by just giving.