Last year a mom-friend of mine sent out a text asking if I wanted to take part in a toy exchange with some local moms. It sounded like a fun idea so I RSVP'd.
Holidays can definitely be a time where it's easy to overspend, but for many kids, especially for those five and under, a toy that is new to them is just as good as a new toy. So a toy exchange can be a great way to save some money and still get some fun gifts for your kids.
There's probably many ways to run a successful toy exchange, but I'll share with you what my friend tried last year.
- Choose a date for the event to take place. Sometime in November is good, or early December at the very latest. You want your toy exchange to happen before all the moms have already completed their Christmas shopping.
- Contact your mom-friends. It's helpful if you all have children in the same general range so that the toys will fit the children.
- Tell everyone to bring 5 used toys that are in great condition. This means that all the pieces need to be included. Only bring a toy that is nice enough that you would like to receive it yourself. (This is not an opportunity to get rid of junk).
- If you do not have 5 toys you'd like to bring, you can substitute a toy for a $5 gift card. Last year our group chose Target as our gift card option. (So each person brings 5 gifts total. Example: maybe 3 toys and 2 gift cards).
- As guests arrive at the event, they come in and place their 5 toys onto a large table or in a few rows on the ground. You want the toys to be spread out enough that people can see everything and easily browse.
- Once everyone arrives, guests draw numbers out of a hat. Each person draws 5 numbers, but one at a time as the bucket/basket is passed around. (Hint: multiply the number of guests by 5 to know how many numbers to include in the drawing).
- Then the toy choosing begins. Whoever drew #1 goes first, #2 second, and so on until all the toys and gift cards have been chosen.
- Optional: you can do a toy steal option (like in White Elephant gift exchanges) where a toy can be stolen up to three times after it's been chosen.
Two helpful hints on how to make this experience great for everyone:
- Remind participants before and after toy-choosing that everything is done as fair as possible. Some people may love all the toys they go home with and others may not, but hopefully everyone had a great time and will go home with something their kids will love.
- Make it a party. Include snacks and drinks and maybe a little holiday decoration to create a fun atmosphere. If you're hosting, it's okay to ask guests to bring a snack to share if you'd rather not provide everything.