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How to host a holiday toy swap in your community

By Anna Fader of MommyPoppins.com

As parents we are often looking for ways to make the holidays a little less about getting and a little more about giving. One way to do this is to host a toy swap. It's a great opportunity to teach the lesson of giving, make the holidays greener, help children in need, and clean out your closets a bit — all through a fun event that brings your community together.

I recently teamed up with another blogger to host two toy swaps in our neighborhood. Although we did this on a large scale, publicizing the events through our blogs and the local media, hosting a swap is easy and can be done as simply as gathering a few families. Here are some tips for organizing your own holiday toy swap:

Choose a location
A small swap can be done in a home or you can ask a local church or other community organization to let you use a room. Other than a room, all you need is some tables to put toys out on. Simple. We partnered with a great playspace, Kidville, to host our swaps. They generously provided the location, activities, and allowed participants to play in their gym, making the events an even bigger draw.

Invite your friends or community
You can make your swap as small or as big as you like. It could be just you and your friends, or your school, or you can publicize it to the larger community. The bigger it is, the more variety of toys there will be to swap — and more to donate.

If you are doing a larger swap, you might want to provide some food or beverages. We asked a new catering business and a local grocer to donate some snacks in exchange for the exposure of having their food tasted by local families.

Although some swaps set up systems where you get tickets for bringing things to swap and can use those tickets to take things away, I find that people are happy to get rid of as much as they can and don't want to take as much as they brought. I like to keep things simple and allow people to just bring and take as much as they like. This makes running the event much easier as there's no system to create beforehand or manage during the event.

Do it for charity
At the end of your swap, you are guaranteed to have many toys left over. These can be donated to a local charity. I like to add a second charity element by asking all who attend the swap to bring a new gift for our holiday toy drive to provide gifts for children in need. At our recent swap we donated about 100 new toys and 10 large garbage bags filled with used toys to a local shelter for homeless families. They will be having a party before Christmas where Santa will give the toys out to families who have lost virtually everything.

Our swaps were a lot of fun. At the end of the events many parents came over to say what a great time they had, how happy they were to clean out their closets and toy chests a little bit before the holidays (when we all know that more will be coming in), and that they had found a few nice toys to take home for their children.

I think it's wonderful that we can recycle our used toys rather than dumping them in a landfill when our children have grown bored with them. It's also a great lesson for children to take a moment to pick out some of their own toys that they no longer use and to know that they are giving them away for other children that can use them and perhaps may need them more. This brings the lesson of giving home to children by making them give something they understand the value of, their own toys. But the part that really makes the whole thing worthwhile to me is thinking of the children who will be getting their toys from Santa at that Christmas party and knowing that our community came together to make that happen.

Anna Fader blogs at Mommy Poppins, providing unique resources and activity ideas for families in or traveling to New York City.

(Photo credit: Karen Connell)

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