Donating Stuffed Animals: Where & How You Can Do It

Last Updated On: 

May 13, 2019

Whether you’re feeling charitable, or just starting to feel claustrophobic with all those stuffed animals filling every corner of your home, you’ve come to the right place!

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on donating stuffed animals, so you can finally get your house back! Just kidding, just kidding.

While that’s definitely a plus, we really do think it’s a great way to teach kids about giving back. After all, we’re responsible for raising these little beings into compassionate and caring adults.

So, if you happen to be in that spot right now, check out our tips below where we discuss just about everything you’ll need to know about donating stuffed animals – from places to donate, how to get the toys donation-ready, all the way to what to do if your kid just can’t let go of their favorite friends.

What Are The Benefits Of Donating Your Child’s Stuffed Toys?

In case you’re on the fence about doing this, know that there are a few different reasons why donating your child’s stuffed animal toys can be a great idea.

Teaches Your Kids Good Values

As Charities Aid Foundation point out, involvement with charity helps to teach your children about the importance of generosity.

While you’re probably not going to put your three-year-old to work in a soup kitchen (“Mud pies made by Charlie, anyone?”), it doesn’t mean they’re not ready to start making their own little impact on the world.

One of the easiest ways to begin teaching your little one about the beauty of giving is through donating their old stuffed animals. It’s something they understand, because they cherish their toys.

Giving away something they cherish to someone else who needs it will teach them an important life lesson in sharing and generosity.

It Could Really Make A Difference To Someone Who Needs It

Most of the charities that accept stuffed animal donations are involved in giving them to kids who really need them.

For example, it might be a disadvantaged child, a sick child or just a kid somewhere who needs a bit of extra light in their life.

Or if it’s a thrift shop run by a charity, the money they get for the toy will often help support community programs and fundraisers.

You’re a time-poor and sleep-deprived parent, but you can still do your part in humanitarian work – toy donating is a great way to do this!

It’s Environmentally-Friendly

Because of material they’re made from, stuffed toys essentially fall into the category of textiles.

According to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association, textiles that are not recycled or reused end up in landfill and can take hundreds of years to break down.

If you have the option between giving away your child’s old soft animals or throwing them out where they’ll end up in landfill, it’s pretty clear which is the better option for the environment!

Helps To Clear Out Your House

Anyone else noticed that soft animal toys seem to magically appear in your house? Every guest that graces your home comes with a soft toy offering for your child, or at least it feels that way sometimes (I know that’s how it is in my house!).

Don’t get me wrong, all of this is very nice, until little Charlie grows out of a particular toy and moves on, leaving a bunch of toys for you to trip over in the hallway.

And with another birthday coming up, you know there’ll be more…

While it might not be the most important reason behind donating your kid’s stuffed animals, de-cluttering is definitely a benefit to consider.

What Are The Steps Involved In Donating Stuffed Animals?

Step 1: Decide if your child is ready to be parted with their little friend.

Step 2: Judge whether the stuffed animal is in good enough condition to be donated. For example, if it’s falling apart at the seams and missing an ear, it might be too worn out and should be disposed of instead.

Step 3: Most soft toys will require washing (unless they’ve sat on the shelf their whole time in your home). We discuss the best way to wash stuffed animals further down in this article.

Step 4: Find a charity or donation center that accepts stuffed animals. This may even mean just finding a family/child in your local community who would appreciate the generosity.

Step 5: Depending on the charity or donation center, you might either organize pickup from the group, or parcel up the toys and drop them off.

How To Know If The Stuffed Toy Is Eligible For Donation

First things first, be aware that not all charities and organizations accept used stuffed animals. I know this sounds unusual, and can sometimes feel a bit depressing, but know that you could possibly encounter such a response.

And even if they do accept your kid’s stuffed animals, they’ll usually only want something that’s still got life in it.

Sometimes, you need to give the toys a good wash first so you can see how they turn out. Check for rips or tears that need attention, because you’ll need to fix these if you intend to donate it.

Once it’s looking its best, the easiest way to know whether or not you should donate it could be as simple as asking yourself: if my child received this toy, would it look fresh, clean and happy enough for them to take it with them to bed?

Be realistic and look at it with fresh eyes.

You might even want to ask your best friend their honest opinion (because you might be biased remembering that Little Ted once supported Charlie through a week with the flu).

How To Get Stuffed Animals Ready For Donation

The team over at Stuffed Animals For Emergencies are experts at getting stuffed toys ready for donation and getting them to kids who need them the most.

They write that it’s best that anything to be donated is “clean, in good condition, not scary, and free of any tears, smells or stains.”

They’ve also generously put together directions on how best to wash and dry the stuffed animals before you send them off for donation. Their main tips include:

  • Stuffed animals less than 24 inches or so can go in the washing machine.
  • Stuffed animals larger than 24 inches or so would be best washed by hand.
  • If you’re using a washing machine, put it on a gentle cycle and use a mild detergent.
  • If you wash by hand, you can use a wet wash cloth with a tiny bit of soap, or you might like to try baby wipes. A lint brush might also be useful in getting the toy looking its best.
  • You can naturally let the toys dry in the sun, or you can put them in the dryer on air dry or low heat, but don’t leave them in there too long. You need to be careful the heat is not too high, as some stuffed animals might have fur that could melt.
  • Any new or barely used toys that look, feel and smell clean might not need washing, but could still benefit from five minutes in the dryer. Once again, do so on an air dry or low heat setting.
  • If you choose to use the dryer, natural dryer sheets can be helpful in freshening up the stuffed animal.
  • Sometimes you might even find that a steam cleaner or vacuum cleaner might also be of use.

We also found a few cool tricks for making an old stuffed animal look new again in this video by ClutterBug. Have a watch and you might get some inspiration!

Ultimately, every stuffed animal is different and sometimes they have little attachments or accessories to them, so be smart when washing and drying them.

In other words, the above tips are only general in nature, and there might be some specifics in each case that means you should take a different approach here and there.

You might even have your own little tricks for getting them clean and fresh, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that!

How Can You Involve Your Child In The Donation Process?

There are a few different ways you can involve your child in the process of donating their stuffed animals:

Tip #1: Have them choose which soft animals to donate. It might even be a good chance to get them to clean up their room!

Tip #2: Allow them to help you clean or prepare the toy for donation. For example, give them little jobs, like laying out the toys to dry or passing you the baby wipes.

Tip #3: Ask for their input in which charity to donate to – obviously depending on their age, you might need to simplify their choices for them, such as “Shall we give it to the local thrift store or sick kids at the local hospital?”

Tip #4: If they’re mature enough to understand, try to explain how this toy will help other kids in need, or brighten someone’s day.

Tip #5: If you’re going to drop the toys off at a donation center, you might even want to take your child with you to see how the entire donation process works from start to finish.

Obviously, the extent of your child’s involvement may also differ depending on how they feel about the donation, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Different kids will react in different ways to all of this, which is completely normal.

For example, if your little one finds the idea distressing, you might limit their involvement until they’re old enough to deal with it emotionally.

What If Your Kid Isn’t Ready To Let Go?

While some kids will happily give away their toys, especially once they understand why they’re doing this, others might need a bit more convincing.

Who can blame them, though? Toys can have great sentimental value, and your little one may just not be ready to part with them.

In this situation, you might want to reconsider donating that particular stuffed animal.

Alternatively, if you think that deep down they’re more ready than they know, here’s a few tips for facilitating the ‘letting go’ process:

Tip #1: Listen to your child. Let them talk about it and show your empathy. Sometimes, all they want to do is grieve out loud the loss of their little soft toy friend. If you’re not there to be the shoulder for them to cry on, who will be?

Tip #2: You could try talking about all the toys you had as a child, and how eventually you gave them away too. Try to push the idea of the toy going to a new home with a kid who will love it just as much as your kid did.

Tip #3: If they’ve recently started playing with other ‘big kid’ toys like bikes or scooters, you could use the opportunity to point out how much they’ve grown up. Gently suggest that maybe this particular toy would be a great friend for a younger kid, now that yours has outgrown it.

Tip #4: If they’re old enough, talk to them about the concept of disadvantage in the world. Begin exploring the idea that some kids don’t have as much as your kid does, and how happy this toy could make one of those other kids.

Ultimately, you don’t want to traumatize your child by pushing them when they’re not ready. Only you as a parent will know when that time is.

Where Can You Donate Your Child’s Old Stuffed Animals?

Ready for some sharing? That’s the spirit!

There are lots of places that accept ‘gently loved’ stuffed animals – as in, used but still with life left in it to fulfill its cuddle duties elsewhere.

However, there’s just as many places that won’t accept anything but brand-new toys, so it’s a good idea to reach out to the donation center before you do anything else and invest anymore time.

As for which places do or don’t accept used stuffed animals, it really varies group by group, so we can’t give a definite list. With that being said, the types of places you might want to reach out to include:

  • Charity groups
  • Not-for-profit organizations
  • Hospitals
  • Homeless shelters
  • Animal shelters
  • Thrift shops (that sell old toys and give the money to charity)
  • Pre-schools and daycare centers
  • Churches
  • Libraries

Alternatively, if you’re struggling to find a donation center that accepts stuffed animals, you could offer them to a family or child directly.

That way, you won’t have to go through most – if not all – time consuming procedures you might be worried about, and you’ll still be doing a good deed.

For example, you could ask around your friends, your neighborhood or put a shout-out on social media and have people reach out to you in private.

If you’re in America, you might want to check out Stuffed Animals For Emergencies who we mentioned earlier in this article. They’re excellent help, as they take in stuffed animals and help get them out to kids who need them.

What Do You Need To Keep In Mind Before You Donate Stuffed Animals?

Unfortunately, some charities don’t accept anything other than brand-new toys that are still in their packaging.

This is usually a safety measure they have to put in place, and they’re not trying to be mean, with the concern being the contamination of germs. That’s why you should always check on their website or reach out first before you go any further with the donation process.

However, even if a place does accept ‘gently used’ stuffed animals, this doesn’t change the fact that it’s still your job to ensure the toy is safe. This means properly washing it before donation and making sure it’s in quality condition.

Donating anything that is dirty or unsalvageable is a waste of everyone’s time – including the donation center who have volunteers sorting through the donations.

What If You Have Lots Of Toys To Donate?

If your little one is generous enough to be giving away lots of toys, you might want to seek out a charity or group that offers a pickup service.

This is where they send out a representative to your home and take the toys off your hands.

Since they’re coming out, you might even want to see if there’s anything else around the home that could be donated as well.

Wrapping it Up

Good Luck!

There’s truly nothing better in this world than giving (although a clean house is nice too, eh?). You’re a beautiful human being for doing this, and you’re an amazing parent for getting your child involved, too.

If you have any of your own tips for donating stuffed animals, or know of any charities that accept them, please let us know in the comments! We’ll appreciate this a lot, and we know for a fact that anyone else in the process of giving will also appreciate your input.

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