Revive Old Toys for Extra Christmas Savings (and Sanity)


It has officially begun. My four-year-old has tuned out the real world in favor of loud Saturday morning commercials advertising the best of must-have toys. Every new ad has him wide-eyed and drooling. Only once each has ended, does he break the gaze of the TV long enough to look at me and shout, “I WANT THAT!”

If the television were alone in this conspiracy, maybe I could handle it. Newspapers, magazines, and catalogs clog up my mailbox with announcements of the season's hottest toys. (For more on an alternative to the catalog craze, check out what the Simple Dollar had to say.) Trying to explain why it was impossible to have every toy on the market just seemed to frustrate my son. We attempted to limit the number of times he was allowed to say, “I want that.” Then we forbade it altogether. This was simply met with a sullen, “I have no cool toys, Mom.”

Determined to do something to show my son that he was far from lacking in his possessions, I began a whirlwind of activity today. I developed a system that every parent should consider before the holiday season gets too far underway. Here’s how it works:


Clean and Cull – You probably need to get around to it anyway, so pick a day soon to clean your child’s room top to bottom. Move furniture, dump out toy boxes, weed out too-small clothing, and throw away trashed books. Commit to doing something purposeful with every item you encounter in that room. (For a little inspiration and some tips on getting it done, you may want to refer to Andrea’s How to Get Rid of Your Junk. Dust as you go, and have a big trash bag handy.


Sort and Stack – Toy boxes are a nightmare. In addition to several missing kitchen utensils and a few of my hubby’s tools, I found crackers, pacifiers, dirty socks, a dead fly, and some dried-up pieces of play-doh in my little ones’ toy box. After removing the garbage, we took each toy and put it with its appropriate play set. Dinosaurs, trucks, crayons, blocks, and puzzles were each reunited with their respective families and given a home in an empty baby wipes container which was then labeled and decorated with a photo of the object for easy reference.


Pass it On – Have a good used toy that just won’t be missed? Put it in a box to go to charity. Do both the charity and your reputation a favor and resist putting anything broken or filthy in the box. Santa’s watching you…


Give Your Favorites a Facelift – Has Buzz Lightyear seen better days? Older toys that haven’t seen daylight for awhile may need a little air and a premium spot on the toy shelf. Using a baby wipe or a sanitizing cleaning cloth, give the old guy a good wiping down. If batteries are dead, take the time to replace them now. You’ll thank yourself later.


Once you have finished the enormous chore of finding purpose to every toy in your child’s room, take a breath. Then show your little one what you have done. If your kid is like mine, they will be amazed! Once they see a room full of clean, organized, and useful toys that work the way they remember them, they will feel blessed again! My son looked at me and smiled as he said, “Mom, I have cool toys again!”

This evening there were just under four commercials for stores advertising toys on sale for the holiday season. My son, however, didn’t notice. He was busy in his room, playing with the toy train we got him last year for Christmas. Maybe he won’t miss this year’s coolest toy after all.

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Myscha Theriault's picture

Parents will be thanking you for this one. Congratulations on the success of your Dawn article too, by the way.

Linsey Knerl's picture

You are too kind  :)

Guest's picture

Since my kids are in their 30's & toys have changed considerably, can toys be put thru the dishwasher? Thought it might be a quicker, easier way to clean/sanitize them.

I used to sort toys & store away about every three months. Kept the 'newness' a lot longer.

Guest's picture

Since my son is much younger, only a year, I have found out that you can put almost all toys in the dishwasher. Top rack of course. Actually, a lot of the baby toys, like the teathers and such, put that information right on the packaging.

Guest's picture
Jon A

Some toys can be put through the dishwasher, especially if you have a low-energy or gentle setting.

The favorite way to clean submersible toys in our house is to put them in the tub with the kids! If something like the toy cars or wooden trains go outside, they come back in with the boys and go straight into the tub, just like them. :)

Linsey Knerl's picture

If there is alot of toys to be cleaned (toy dishes are the worst), I'll put them in a very diluted hot water / bleach bath and let them soak for a few hours.  Then I rinse them thoroughly one by one.  (We don't have a dishwasher...)

You also don't want to forget the tub toys themselves... they can get moldy and gross, so wash them separately, using a toothbrush to get some of the gunk off..

Will Chen's picture

I adore that picture Linsey.  It is a wonderful addition to a wonderful article.

Guest's picture

I just washed my 2 yr old'd Pooh Bear this weekend for a bit of a facelift. But I put him in the dryer inside a pillow case to dry him up faster.

Linsey Knerl's picture

I never thought of using a pillow case!  Great idea!

Guest's picture

We haven't had a TV since my son was a baby and it's been great. But at 3 years old, he has still cottoned on to the fact that things are for sale and that he can nag for them. The hilarious thing is that he asks for things that don't exist, or aren't for sale! For instance, he points to construction trucks that we see on the road and asks if he can have them when he's a big man. Or he'll ask for a dump truck with purple and yellow propellers on the wheels and full of chocolate grape cake...

Anyway, it's much easier to say "No" when it's the only option.

We also cycle our toys-- have 3 big plastic tubs and rotate them every so often. But because we expect there will be another flood of stuff at Christmas (lots of grownup relatives, only 2 grandchildren) I'm going to have my son help me fill a tub of stuff to give away entirely, on the grounds that otherwise there won't be room for new toys.

Guest's picture

i have a 1 1/2 year old girl and this helps. we have a bookshelf with boxes in them, we only pull out one a day and they always seem to surprise her. while the toys that don't fit in boxes and are always out are about as interesting as a chair to her.

Guest's picture

I'm new to this blog, although I've belonged to the Blogher organization since its inception. I really liked this post and found it relevant on many levels.

The primary reason that I'm commenting, though, is to ask if you've ever seen Zwaggle? It's a toy trading site. The concept is similar to freecycle, with the ultimate goal to keep toys out of the landfill, and help your wallet to remain full.