Home Before Your Move Donating Toys Before the Holidays

Donating Toys Before the Holidays

by Ali Wenzke
Donating Toys Before the Holidays

Stuffing kids’ toys into a black, opaque garbage bag when they fall asleep. It’s what you do. If you want to save 15% or more on your taxes, you switch to the Ali Toy Store Method. It’s what you do.

You may not exactly save 15% on taxes, but you will have a clean, organized home and kids that trust you. Priceless.

  1. The Pep Talk for Donation Weekend

We’ve been doing Donation Weekend for years, so my three kids (ages 7, 9, & 10) know the drill by now. We start with a discussion of why donating toys is important in a Q & A format. If this is your first time donating toys with your child’s input, you may need to give some extra guidance. Here are my family’s reasons, but your family might want to add more:

  • Help others who are less fortunate
  • Give our toys a chance to be loved by someone else
  • By getting rid of toys we don’t use, we can find the ones we really like
  • A clean house makes us all happier
  • We create space for new Christmas gifts
  • Earning candy, money, and new books is awesome (so are tax deductions for Mom & Dad)
  1. Our Rules for Donating Toys

Before we set up the Wenzke Toy Store, we tell the kids the rules of the game.

10 Tips to Donating Toys With Your Kids

  • You can keep all the toys you want to keep.
  • You can “buy” a toy even if it isn’t yours as this just means it won’t be donated.
  • Everything that is not chosen will be donated.
  • At the end of the shopping period, we will put the donated toys into piles.
  • If it is your toy, put it in your personal donation pile.
  • If it’s a group toy, it’s counted in the group donation pile.
  • Final determination of whether it’s a group toy goes to your Awesome Parents.
  • Donations will be weighed.
  • Amount earned per item this year: $0.30/lb for donations. $0.20/lb for trash and recycling.
  • Group donations will be added to the final number instead of splitting it among the three kids.
  • If Child B chooses to save Child A’s toy, but Child A wants to donate it, Child B can “buy” the toy by decreasing his total pounds at the weigh-in.
  • You earn one new book for every 4 pounds donated (max 5 books).
  • Results will be shared at the Closing Ceremony at the end of the weekend.
  • Candy breaks will be called by Awesome Parents as necessary.
  1. Setting Up the Toy Store By Category

10 Tips to Donating Toys Before the Holidays with Help from Your Kids

The kids help set up the stuffed animal store.

First, pick a specific category of toys you want to tackle. This year we did stuffed animals, large dolls, board games, Legos, Imaginext sets and dollhouses. Start off with one category at a time or it can become overwhelming for both you and your child. Our family started with stuffed animals this time. It’s mind-boggling when you put them all in one place. With all of the same toys in one place, it’s easier for your child to recognize that she doesn’t need 26 unicorns. Two or twenty should be plenty. While donating six unicorns may not seem like a lot, it’s six more than you would probably get if the unicorns were scattered around the house.

  1. The Grand Opening

We try to make Donation Weekend less like a chore and more of a fun family experience. So, when the kids wait in line for the Grand Opening, we give each one some sticky tabs or small Post-it notes. Each child gets a different color to make sorting easier later. We explain that they can “buy” any toy they’d like to buy. Then, we bust out the red carpet, make a grand announcement, and begin the dramatic countdown. Together we shout out “zero”,  I cut the imaginary yellow ribbon, and stand back to let the kids rush into their new bookstore. Next, I sit back on the couch and watch the magic happen. Slowly.

  1. Shop ‘Til You Drop

Donating Toys Before the Holidays with Help From Your Kids

Shopping at the board game store.

The kids can shop as long as they’d like, placing tags on everything they want to keep. If your child buys everything, don’t feel discouraged. You may end up keeping forty-seven stuffed animals and donating four. That’s okay. Praise your child for donating four. This is the beginning of a lifelong process of learning to part with possessions. It gets easier the more you do it and as your child gets older. Try not to force your child to donate a specific item.

  1. Candy Break

Donating Toys Before the Holiday with Help From Your Kids

Fuel for the weekend.

We plan Donation Weekend right after Halloween, so we let the kids eat ridiculous amounts of candy during this time. It’s hard work for everyone involved. Make sure the kids save some candy for you, too.

  1. Parent Mini Clean-Up with Donation Write-Up

Donating Toys Before the Holidays with Help From Your Kids

Mini-break to write down itemized donations.

After you’ve eaten the Almond Joy your kid didn’t want, you need to get back to work. Write every item donated for tax purposes. This itemized list can save you hundreds of dollars come tax time. After you’ve itemized everything, place the bags in a separate work space.  Be sure to keep them separated by child, if necessary, for the final weigh-in. I like to do the weigh-in after each category, but the final reveal comes at the end of the weekend.

  1. Repeat The Toy Store Using A Different Category

After we finished the stuffed animals, we moved onto Legos. The kids and I set up every Lego box in our basement. With every Lego set displayed together, we couldn’t believe the sheer quantity. This served as a friendly reminder that we don’t need to ask for Legos for Christmas. The kids came to the store with Post-its and shopped for all the Lego sets they wanted to keep. Now we’ll need to reconstruct the donated Legos to make sure all of the pieces are there, but that’s an activity for another weekend.

  1. The Weigh-In


Donating Toys Before the Holidays with Help From Your Kids

Donation weekend success!

10 Steps to Donating Toys Before the Holidays with Help From Your Child

Donating Toys Before the Holidays with Help From Your Kids.

Total success!


Donating Toys Before the Holidays

Where the magic happens

After a weekend of non-stop work and copious M&Ms, it’s time for the weigh-in. A child gets on the scale and we hand him or her a bin of donations. This works well as a mini math lesson as well. With so many numbers floating around, they won’t know the final results until the much anticipated Closing Ceremony. This occurs after Mom finishes cleaning up the basement.

  1. Closing Ceremony

My husband and I call the kids to the couch. We march into the room regally, trumpets and all. We speak in British accents, because everything is fancier and more official when you speak in a British accent. We make jokes about how we ate the rest of their Halloween candy, which the kids find hilarious. Then, it’s time to announce the individual results. For every four pounds, a child earns a book he picked out from our school book fair. Drumroll, please… We announce the individual results: Each child receives one or two books! The kids wait nervously to hear the group results. We let them sweat it out a bit before we tell them the final weight number and dollar amount. The crowd goes wild! Each child earned all five books and made between $20-$35 dollars each.

Donating Toys Before the Holidays With Help From Your Kids

Coveted prizes. We’re not above bribery.

Donating Toys Before the Holidays

We’ve moved so many times, so my husband and I feel it’s important to include the children in the decluttering and donation process. We felt guilty enough when moving with kids. We didn’t want the additional guilt of “accidentally” throwing out a prized possession. Our kids react to donating toys in different ways, with some more attached to their possessions than others. As they’ve grown older, though, they’ve seen the benefits of Donation Weekend and they look forward to it every year. Even the child with the most difficulty donating items now does so with ease. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it and it gets easier each time you do it.

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Momof4 November 17, 2016 - 11:33 pm

This sounds like an excellent way to donate. Now all I need is for you to come in and run my toy shop!! We are getting new carpet for the basement and had to move all of the toys. I think it is the perfect time to have the “lego toy store” open for business before putting everything back. Instead of donation weekend, I’ll just do one category. By the way, do they have all day to shop for that category or what is the time limit per category since you can’t move on to a new category until one store closes? What is the approximate length of time it took your three kids to complete their shopping?

Ali Wenzke November 18, 2016 - 7:37 am

Hi, Momof4! Great questions. It took us all day Saturday and Sunday to complete everything. The amount of time per category depended on how many toys we had. For stuffed animals, the store was open for about an hour. For board games, it took about 20 minutes. I’ve been known to wait until Sunday to donate everything in case they have second thoughts about an item donated.

If you are in the Chicago area, shoot me an email and I’d be happy to help out! It sounds like the perfect time for you to host a Toy Store. Let us know how it goes.

jafar immam March 18, 2024 - 1:06 pm

Good-minded people can take good initiative.
Good luck on your future journey.


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