Adventures in pre-loved toys

I have to admit, the enchantment of walking into a well stocked toy store sends me to a warm, happy place filled with memories of my childhood. I love seeing the stacks of puzzles and games, the ornate displays of trains and dolls, the beautiful stars and ribbons that hang from the ceiling and the stuffed animals that fill every square inch.

I loved receiving toys as a child and I now love giving them just as much.

But I’m much more aware now that I have a significant impact on the environment and I’m weary of the influence that consumerism has upon our lives.

I don’t buy products that come in a fortress of packaging – it drives me mad because it needlessly increases the cost of products and wastes precious resources.

But is it possible to avoid plastic packaging and excessive consumerism when toy shopping for children?

The answer is yes. (And I’m saving bundle doing it too.)

The trick is in pre-loved toys.


The shopping experience might not be as whimsical as what some toy stores can offer but it can be a lot more fun and rewarding.

And since the packaging has long since been disposed of, it’s the dream of every thrifty-eco-savvy family!

I am a big fan of consignment stores because it’s a win/win for everyone involved. The buyer saves money and both the seller and the consignment store make money.

Our local consignment store is owned by a lovely woman who has two young kids. She employs local people, helps local families and promotes local events. The money I spend there stay in the community and that’s important to me.

As an added bonus, there’s a corner for kids so I bring my toddler along with me and she can read, hang out and play.

Some of the deals are impressive, especially when there’s a seasonal sale.

I paid $12 for more than 200 pieces of big blocks. Since it’s easy to spend a small fortune on building a good collection of blocks, I’m still quite pleased with this deal. I would have spent $100 buying these new. I even got a princess costume for a dollar. A dollar!

Another of my favourite places for pre-loved toys are garage sales  – especially in neighbourhoods with a lot of families.

Families on a street in our old neighbourhood held a multiple family garage sale every summer and it was a lot of fun. Kids were running cookie, juice, lemonade and hot dog stands while their parents sold their toys. Brilliant. I scored a lot of amazing stuff for really cheap and we made a fun morning out of it.

An added bonus was picking up a lot of books for just a couple dollars and an elaborate wood bead maze for $3.

We all know that building a good book collection is another expensive undertaking. We’re a bilingual family and I have a hard time finding used books in French so I usually have to buy them at full price. Luckily used English children’s books are a dime a dozen at garage sales.

And since my toddler has a knack for destroying them, I really dislike spending a lot of money on books. To bring them back to life, I spent $10 on book tape and repair torn pages or broken board books with some handy book tape I picked up. (Now she thinks I can fix anything.)

Ride-on toys are hard to come across in the pre-loved toy realm. They are the most elusive item I’ve yet to come across. It would seem that the super early birds snatch them up. Luckily, I happen to know one of these super early birds.

My daughter’s old daycare provider is a volunteer member of a group that puts together a not-for-profit used children’s toy, clothing and equipment sale with all proceeds going back into the community. Since she gets first dibs on the sale item as a volunteer, she shops the night before the sale open to the public.

She found us a coupe in perfect condition for $15. They retail for more than that retails for more than $70.

More importantly than saving cash, I’m happy knowing that my money went back in the community and not in the hands of the already super wealthy retail stores.

There are so many amazing deals to be had outside the traditional toys shops. The thrill is not in walking into an elaborate toy store, but rather it’s in putting money back into my community, keeping packaging out of landfills and showing my children that their decisions make a difference.

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