It's that time of year again when you get the "itch" to clean up and clear out. Santa came last month with some new things and it's time to make room for them. Sometimes your excitement to simplify or clean out isn't shared by your kids. Here are some creative ways you can get your kids involved with the process of getting rid of their things. Who says donating can't be purposeful and fun?
1. Donate Books To A School
Money is often tight in local schools, keeping teachers from being able to buy resources, such as books for the classroom. As your youngest kid grows in reading ability, pass down lower reading level books to your school, or to a school teacher you know. Keep your favorites or the ones with sentimental value and donate the rest.
2. Donate Books To Your Local Little Free Library
Little Free Library is a book donation program that's located in many cities. If you see a little book stand in someone's yard – like the picture above – you have one of these. The process is simple ... donate a book and borrow a book. This is a really fun and tangible experience for a kid. It's also fun to check it from time to time to see what books have been taken.
3. Host A Book Swap
Have your child's friends over and have each kid bring a book to swap and a couple of books to donate. Play games, making the books the prizes. Every kid will come home with a new book to read, and you can take the rest to be donated. Hip 2 Save has some great ideas and specifics on how to host different kinds of book swaps for kids.
4. Donate Clothing And Shoes To A School
There are many schools, especially in large cities, that are filled with families and children in need. The teachers and staff at these schools are often confronted with the needs of their students as the year goes on, with requests for items such as coats, socks, shoes, and clothes. Imagine if they had the resources to pull from to help a child in need. Engage your kiddos by helping them understand that their outgrown clothes can help a kid like them. Some schools have social workers on staff who can help you understand what the kids need or how to donate things.
5. Donate Stuffed Animals/Toys To A Police Station
This one is actually near and dear to my family's heart. Two years ago we adopted my son out of the state foster care system. Like many foster children, my son was taken out of his biological home at a young age. To have a police officer come to your home and take you away is a very scary experience for a kid. When this happened to my four year old son, the police officer gave him a stuffed animal to help him feel safe. It seems so insignificant in light of the tragedy, but to a 4-year old, it gave him a little moment of security. My son is now passionate about donating stuffed animals to police stations. I simply call ahead before we show up and they are always grateful.
6. Donate Stuffed Animals/Toys To An EMS Station
Many EMTs/paramedics keep a small stash of stuffed animals in their ambulance to help calm kids who have to take trips to the hospital in an ambulance. To donate, call in advance or just simply drive up to your local EMS station and knock on the door. There's always someone there.
7. Pass Down Clothes To A Friend
Kids grow out of clothes so quickly that most friends will welcome those barely used clothes that your child has outgrown. Identify a mom or dad whose child is a size or two below yours, (politely) ask if there is a need, and send the outgrown clothes to them. Sometimes knowing the person that will use the clothes can help a youngster part ways with their favorite (yet way too small) t-shirt.
8. Donate Worn Down Stuffed Animals And Blankets To Animal Shelters
This is the perfect place for all those stuffed animals, blankets, and towels that are a little too worn to reuse. Before tossing them check out your local animal shelter...
9. Take Broken Toys To A Recycling Center
All kids have broken toys, puzzles with missing pieces, and boxes for things no longer used. Load these things up and take them to your local recycle center. Call ahead and ask if they give tours or allow you to see the process. Our local center has educational signs explaining how particular items will be recycled. There are also really cool machines to watch in action. The above photo is the massive conveyor belt my local recycling center uses to crush aluminum cans into massive "building-block-like" squares. My son really wants to build a fort in my backyard with them... you know, landscaping design at its finest. Thankfully...I mean, sadly...you can't buy them.
10. Give Your Kiddo Money For The Things They Sell.
Whether you have a garage sale or you sell their things on a local Facebook group, promise to give your little ones the money (or a percentage of the money) for the toys you sell. After one thing sells, and they have cash in hand, you will see your kid run to their room to find more things.
11. Clear Out Art By Making An Art Book
If your kiddo is like mine, he or she loves everything they have created and treats everything like a masterpiece. Our home can be filled with his treasures. I hate to say it, but not all of them need to be kept. Here's how to get your kid excited about creating his or her own art book.
Designate a file cabinet for the most special pieces, and curate them often. Talk with your kids about why a particular piece is special (or not). When you have enough art saved up, make a cool art book before clearing them out. Check out how This Fine Day used Shutterfly for her daughter's art book.
12. Clear Out Treasures (A.K.A. Junk) By Creating A Treasures Jar
Is your house filled with treasures? When I say "treasures" I mean rocks found from the park, sticks, rubber band bracelet received from friends, and 150 seashells from your beach vacation. Buy a jar and have your kids pick their favorite "treasures" to go into the jar. Encourage space for newly found pieces. The only rule is that when the jar gets full you have to empty the jar down to the favorites again.
13. Read Books About Giving
If your kid is really having a hard time donating their stuff maybe go to the library and check out some books on giving. Children's books are non-intimidating, whimsical ways to engage something they don't want to do. Here are a few of my favorite books:
- The Berenstain Bears: Think of Those in Need by Stan & Jan Berenstain
- Too Many Toys by David Shannon (not pictured)
- How Full is Your Bucket by Mary ReckMeyer (not pictured)
14. Box Up Toys For An Allotted Amount Of Time
If your kid has a hard time letting go of things, make a deal to box up the rarely/never played with toys for an agreed upon amount of time. When that time as passed re-evaluate their value. Let your kiddo play with the toys before they box them up to help them have closure. Sometimes doing this will help them tangibly see how those toys never really cross their mind. It will also help you see if they do.
15. Donate Old Tennis Shoes
It is typical to look at old tennis shoes and consider them trash worthy. There are some great organizations like Soles4Souls and NikeGrind who repurpose old shoes to help people in need and limit waste. All sizes of shoes matter so if you're not passing those tennis shoes down, donate them. Most sites make this easy!
Find the right plan for your family and make it a fun yearly tradition. Did I miss something? Please do share!