The Land of Misfit Toys

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When kids tire of their toys, you can get rid of them responsibly. From toys in good condition, to broken toys and plastics and electronics, there's a way to help the environment while you purge your playroom.
Originally Published: 12/17/10



During holidays and birthdays, kids' toyboxes are flooded with shiny new arrivals, and last year's toys, with their missing pieces, broken parts, and worn appearance, are relegated to the bottom of the heap.

If you're pretty sure that they're not going to be played with, now is a good time to clean out the toybox of older toys — but what to do with playroom cast-offs? Here are a few ideas on how to responsibly dispose of old toys, in any condition.

Toys and Games in Good Condition

Even if your kids have lost interest in a certain toy, there's a good chance that it could become a new favorite to someone else. For toys and games that are in good shape, with no damage and all their pieces intact, the most eco-friendly thing to do is to find the toy a new home.

Some ideas for passing along toys include:
• Organize a toy swap with other families in the community.
• Donate the toy to a thrift store.
• Give the toy to a children's hospital, shelter, daycare or preschool.
• Donate stuffed animals and other toys in like-new condition to an organization like Stuffed Animals For Emergencies (SAFE), which collects stuffed animals and toys to distribute to children who are in crisis situations.

Broken Toys and Games

Before you throw out a toy because it's broken or missing parts, determine whether it can be fixed. At-home toy repair might be possible, and some manufacturers, such as Little Tikes and Lego will replace or sell you missing pieces; call their customer service number to get information. There are also online and local services that might be able to repair broken toys, such as This Old Toy, which specializes in Fisher Price toys, or Randy's Toy Shop.

Some toys, like board games or toys with lots of small parts, might be able to be repurposed for craft projects. Use pieces for mosaics, dioramas, tree ornaments, barrettes, and more.

Plastic Toys

Plastic toys that are broken or missing parts might be able to be recycled, depending on what type of plastic they're made from. If the plastic number is not indicated on the toy or the packaging (if you even still have the packaging), you might be able to contact the manufacturer to find out what it's made from, and then check with your city or Earth911.com to make sure that your municipal recycling accepts that type of plastic.

But there are other, more interesting ways to recycle plastic toys. For instance, Happen's Toy Lab in Cincinnati, OH, is an activity center where kids can build their own toys from, you guessed it, recycled toy parts. The organization accepts donations of plastic dolls, action figures, plastic cars, rubber, and other toys. Project Night Night also collects stuffed animals and children's books for homeless children.

Electronic Toys

Toys with memory chips, computer screens, and other electronic components cannot be put in the curbside recycling bin. Instead, they need to be recycled with other electronics — luckily, you can find a number of e-cycling centers online.


Recycling and repurposing toys is certainly environmentally-responsible, but you might also consider renting instead of buying. Rental services like My Busy Bucket will ship a container of toys (chosen from an age range or a theme) for you to borrow for a certain period of time, such as a month — that way your kids will have a steady supply of new toys to play with, and fewer new items enter the cycle.


What do you do with your misfit toys? Share your suggestions in the comments section below.


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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Catie P. 1 year ago
    We donate to the local charity thrift shop, or to one of our scouting groups if they are having a yard sale
  • kristi k. 1 year ago
    I donate some items to other families, my sons school, or the goodwill.
  • Mike B. 1 year ago
    Our local children's zoo will take some used toys as enrichment toys for the animals there.
  • Mary Anna H. 1 year ago
    What a great article. When my boys were young I donated their old toys to their much younger cousins (I'm part of a large extended family) as my kids were really good about taking care of their belongings.
  • Charles P. 1 year ago
    if they are in good condition we give the toys to our church people that come to get food from our pantry may pick a toy for there childs birthday or Christmas
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