Now that December is upon us, you may be starting to worry about affording Christmas. Unfortunately, the past couple years haven’t been kind and many of us are struggling with no money for Christmas. Parents are desperately searching how to get free toys, because we are all hoping that a good Christmas is the least we can get out of these bad times. So if you or someone you know is struggling and looking for different ways to obtain free toys for Christmas, here is a list of some great places to begin hunting.
Check with people you know
A good place to start is by asking the people you already know. At this time of year, many people clear out old or outgrown toys that their child has lost interest in. Think about checking in with friends or family to see what they have lying around.
This works particularly well if someone close to you has a child a little bit older than yours, who is into similar things, and is likely to be outgrowing some of their former favorites. Give them a call, or ask in passing conversation if they are clearing out old stuff that you could have a look at, and maybe give an old loved toy a second chance at a happy home.
Perhaps you have a good friend or family member who has a child of similar age that would be happy to do a toy swap. This way you could encourage your child to share one of their pre-loved toys with a child in need, while obtaining a free toy for them as well.
You could even ask your parents if they have any of your old childhood favorites lurking in their garage, basement, or attic. Finding a toy that holds special memories for you might be even more precious to give to your child and become a family heirloom that they cherish.
Check within your community
Many churches have programs to help members get in contact with people from the community who are in need. They often help provide food, toys, decorations, or winter clothing at Christmas. If they can’t personally help you, they also tend to have great contacts with local organizations in your area that can offer you additional advice or support.
Local food banks are another place that most people would never think to check for toys. While the main resources food banks tend to pass out is food, they are also regularly known to hand out clothes or toys, particularly around Christmas time.
Second hand charity and antique shops are another great place to find some unique treasures hiding on a forgotten shelf. Many have a dedicated section for children’s toys, some of which are offered for free or for only a few cents.
Check in with charities
There are tons of national and regional charities that operate Christmas toy drives that are more than happy to help families in need. The exact charity operating near you will depend on what part of the world you live in. You can usually find out the name of ones operating near you by visiting your local toy shops.
These charities tend to put collection points in big supermarkets and toy stores to accept donations. The charity details will be available for you to donate if you can, or to contact them if you are in need. Additionally you can get this information by contacting local child welfare agencies or local baby groups.
Scour internet second hand websites
If you are still struggling to find people nearby who can help, then it is time to cast out a wider net in your hunt for free Christmas gifts. There are tons of second hand websites that allow you to sell, swap, or obtain used children’s toys. Websites like Freecycle, Curb Stuff, Gumtree, Craigslist, and even Facebook have tons of local community pages where you can advertise your need.
You may be surprised by the great response you get from community members. Many people post free toys, particularly things their child has outgrown and they just want to get rid of. You may even be able to clear out some of your old stuff and earn some cash to use for used kids toys. You can find great bargains this way, including many toys that were played with for a day then forgotten. I once managed to get my daughter an entire My Little Ponies set of 30 ponies with accessories when she was around 3 years old this way. Just make sure to give them a really thorough cleaning and you should be good to go.
Free competitions and toy testing
This one is a little more risky as obviously you aren’t guaranteed to get anything, but you have to be in it to win it as they say. Many major toy companies, kids magazines, blogs, and radio stations will run free toy giveaways or contests that you can enter.
You could even try your luck signing up to be a toy tester. Companies like Mattel will allow you to try out toys if you review them or complete surveys letting them know how to improve their products. If you are a regular user of Reddit, they run a Santa’s little helper event where you create an Amazon list of up to $90 to get help with Christmas toys.
If all else fails, get cracking on a DIY Christmas.
- Grab some printables online: There are tons of great online resources offering free Christmas goodies online to help you get started with a crafty Christmas. You could begin by getting the kids involved printing off these great Christmas card templates or coloring pages to decorate the house. It is a great way to spend quality time with each other while you get into the Christmas spirit.
- Call on Santa: Santa also sends out free personalized videos and telephone calls from himself or his elf on the shelf helpers. Maybe you would even prefer to download this free Santa Calling app to your phone, in case you need to urgently to contact him when someone is being naughty!
- Get crafty: After that you can roll up your sleeves and get crafty making some DIY toys for kids. Maybe you are talented at making crotchet teddy bears, or perhaps your handy with a hammer and can build a wooden jewelry box. Think about what you can make for your child that they would treasure. The time and effort you spend putting into the present will mean a lot to them.
If you need some ideas you can always check online in places like Pinterest for some inspiration. DIY Christmas is even easier the younger your child is. Simply filling an empty clear plastic bottle with glitter and water, or with dried beans, make great DIY toys for baby. And as most parents will attest, toddlers prefer to play with an empty box anyway, so get creative and make them a cardboard castle or den. Older kids might enjoy a scrapbook of their funniest pictures growing up, or maybe you could make them a list of songs you liked “back in the day.” For the last one though be prepared to be mocked to your face, while they secretly love at least one from your list.
- Create coupons: If you don’t have any great crafting skill you could always make a box or bag full of “coupons.” For younger kids, it might be a coupon for “30 minutes jumping on the bed,” “Get out of cleaning my room today,” or “1 hour playing Twister with Dad.” As the kids get older maybe the coupons could be for “1 free ride for you and your friends to a place of your choosing,” “1 hour extra curfew,” or a “free trip to the cinema with you and a friend.” Write up a bunch of ideas on paper in fancy handwriting, decorated with glitter, stickers, or just some colored pencil, then wrap them all up together in a box. Make sure whatever you write down you are willing to do though!
There’s more to Christmas than presents
The most important thing to keep in mind is that children don’t have to have a room full of presents to be happy. In my house there has always been a “rule of 3” where Santa brings you something you want, something you need, and something he thinks you will like. Most years when things are good they get a few extras, yet they are only ever expecting 3.
That means when times are tough, the budget has a little bit of a break. By the time you add in what they get from Mom, Dad, and relatives you will be surprised how it all adds up quickly. Try not to let the worry and pressure of “having enough for Christmas” get you down, because it is felt so much more by us than it is by our children. Making the best of what you have and enjoying quality time with the people you love is what is most important and ultimately what your child will remember.
So do a puzzle, dust off the family board games, play some fun Christmas games, or just make cookies and hot chocolate in your pajamas. There is so much more to Christmas than a mountain of expensive presents that they won’t remember next year anyway.