Creating a Neighborhood Toy Swap: The Art of Toy Shares

Almost all the mothers I know — and I know many — complain about the mountains of toys taking over their homes, their cars, their lives. Not only that, but their kids are growing so quickly that many of these toys are no longer age-appropriate for their little ones.

Why would they want to purchase more expensive toys when there are already too many old, unwanted toys hanging around?

A great solution to both of these problems — too much toy clutter and the cost of upgrading toys as your child grows — is to create a neighborhood toy swap.

What Is a Toy Swap?

Mothers and fathers have long swapped parenting advice and kid products to help each other out.

It’s simple, really. In a traditional swap, Family A’s 5-year-old child has outgrown his baby swing and it’s taking up valuable bedroom space, while Family B just had a baby and could really use a baby swing to curb those crying fits. Then Family C comes to the table with both formula that their little one no longer needs plus a twin-sized bed their teenager has outgrown.

During each swap, families get what they need without making new purchases or leaving unused items to gather dust. Plus, it’s a great way for local parents to meet and socialize.

So why not try it with toys?

How to Find Your Swap Members

The first thing you’ll need to do is to assemble a group of willing parents looking to swap toys. Fortunately, there are many parent hangout locations both online and off where you can find them.

Here are some places where you can put out a brief description of what you’re trying to do to see who might be interested:

  • Localized websites: Sites like Nextdoor and local parenting Facebook groups (just search for your area and “parenting” or “mothers” in the search bar) are a huge help in finding parents nearby.
  • Neighborhood meetings: Participate in your neighborhood’s meetings, such as a local homeowners association meeting or the annual National Night Out in your area. Ask to speak during the meeting about your idea or pass around an email sign-up sheet.
  • Local hangout spots: Hang up flyers for your toy swap at family-friendly hot spots, like the library or at a coffeeshop.

Define the Rules of Participation

Now that you’ve assembled at least a handful of willing participants — more will come as word spreads — it’s important to define the rules of participation as a group.

Keeping in mind that you can poll your new members for help in deciding these rules, here are some considerations to make:

  • How often will swaps take place?
  • Where will the swap meetup be?
  • What does each member need to bring in order to participate in the swap?
  • What toy conditions are appropriate, and what toy conditions will not be accepted?

Another helpful tip is to provide everyone with a list of the ages and interests of participating parents’ children so that current members can know what kinds of toys to bring and prospective members can know if they’ll be able to meaningfully participate in the swap. Keep this list updated as new members join and old members leave.

Not only can a toy swap save you and your neighbors hundreds of dollars over the years, but it can also foster lasting relationships between neighbors. That’s a win-win in any book.

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