There are various ways to get free toys this holiday season, whether you demonstrate financial need or just want to save some money. From well-known organizations to online communities and savvy shopping, you can provide your child with a magical Christmas no matter your current situation. These toy assistance programs give us all the warm and fuzzies, reminding us that so many people still know the true meaning of Christmas.
Where to Get Free Toys for Christmas
To find free toys, patience is key. While several resources offer toys for children at Christmas, finding a toy that is age-appropriate and a good match for your child's interests can take some time. In addition, some of these options require that you can document a genuine financial need, such as unemployment or medical issues, to get the toys for free.
Depending upon your income and your family's circumstances, there may be charitable organizations that can provide your children with free toys. Some of these are national organizations that have branches that serve your local community while others are designed for those in a specific community alone.
- Toys for Tots: Run by the U.S. Marines, this national organization provides toys for children up to age 12 in low-income families, although individual local branches may serve children up to age 17. Individuals interested in receiving free toys can contact their local branch to make a request. Documentation is required to verify income and sign up.
- The Salvation Army: Best known for its Christmas bell ringers, this organization also collects toys to distribute to needy children via various programs including Angel Trees, Toys for Tots, or the Salvation Army Toy Shop. Individuals can qualify for assistance if they're facing problems with employment or have difficult family circumstances. Those interested in receiving toys need to contact their local branch, and requests are normally taken beginning in October or November.
- Prison Fellowship Angel Tree: This organization provides toys for children who have a parent in prison. The incarcerated parent has to sign up for the program through his or her prison. Gifts are typically collected by churches and then taken personally to children who qualify for the program.
- Make-A-Wish Foundation: This organization offers gifts and wishes for children under age 18 who are facing a life-threatening medical condition. Although it offers its services around the year, eligible children may request Christmas toys as a wish. A parent, guardian, medical professional, family member, or child can place a referral online.
- Operation Homefront: This organization focuses on making Christmas special for veteran and active duty military service members. They partner with Dollar Tree and volunteers to provide toys for the children of these families every Christmas. To apply for the assistance, you'll need to make an account with the organization.
- Santa's Little Helpers: This is an online community, operated through Reddit, to help families provide toys and gifts for their children at Christmas. You can request membership and assistance to provide gifts for children up to age 18. Once you're approved, you can make an Amazon wishlist for your child.
- Local Churches: Many local churches have "Adopt a Family" programs during the holidays to provide those in need with food, toys, and decorations for a Christmas celebration. In addition, they can often put you in contact with other organizations in your community that are offering Christmas help for low-income families during the holidays.
- Food Banks: In some communities, toys are distributed through a local food bank. To find a food bank near you, you can visit Feeding America to see food banks in your zip code or state, and you can then call to find out if they offer free toys.
You might find that many of the people now involved in these organizations know firsthand what it feels like to experience a magical childhood Christmas because of the generosity of others.
Saving money on toys for Christmas isn't just for families experiencing financial or situational difficulties. The stress of holiday finances touches many lives.
Even if you don't demonstrate financial need but still want to save money this holiday season, you can often find toys on websites that allow people to give away items they no longer need. These sites generally require that you meet with the giver locally to pick up the items in person.
- Freecycle: This website is a non-profit network made up of people across the globe who are committed to reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. The website is broken up into regional groups, and members post items to give away with no strings attached. In the past, Freecycle listings have included items such as swing sets, bicycles, and play kitchens.
- Curb Stuff: Similar to Freecycle, this website is designed for individuals who want to give away unwanted items, including toys. The website is also broken up into local groups, and you will probably need to meet with the giver in person to pick up the toy.
- Craigslist: Although most commonly known as an online classifieds website where people can sell items, find jobs, and seek housing, this website also has a section that allows users to give away free items, including toys. To find out what is available, you'll need to visit the Craigslist page specifically for your city and then select the "Free" link under the "For Sale" section.
Do you have toys saved from childhood that you adored? Wrapping them as a sentimental and fun gift is one way to save this holiday season and still give your child a meaningful Christmas gift.
Another way to get free toys is to get together all the parents in your neighborhood for a toy swap. You can invite each parent to bring over their child's toys that are no longer needed, but still in good condition. With enough participants, you'll have plenty of toys suitable for a variety of age groups. A bit of scrubbing, a fresh coat of paint, or a pretty ribbon bow may be all that is needed to turn one of these items into the perfect gift for your son or daughter.
Contests and Giveaways
Although you're not guaranteed to win a prize, there are occasional contests online offering free toys or items for kids. Some contests require an essay or photo submission, but many are simply random drawings.
Check the websites of popular toy brands and kids' websites for contests and giveaways this season. A few examples of contests to try:
- Toy Insider: This organization holds toy giveaways throughout the year, but they also offer special holiday promotions, like the 12 Days of Spookley Giveaways where kids can win items like plush toys and books.
- Skidos: Kids' game site Skidos has a holiday contest for kids and parents. Winners may receive goodie bags, gift sets, and more by doing an activity and entering to win.
- Radio Flyer: Enter to win daily through mid-December for a chance to get a bike or toy from Radio Flyer.
- Pix Brix: Two lucky winners will receive building fun with a box of Pix Brix this season.
Local organizations or businesses, including clubs, community centers, local police or emergency workers, news stations, small businesses, or other groups, may also host or sponsor toy giveaways around the holidays. Your city's Facebook page, city hall, or the local library are good places to find out what organizations in your community might be offering a giveaway.
It takes some time and creativity, but savvy shoppers can occasionally manage to purchase brand-new toys for little or no money. Strategies include:
- Promotions that offer a specific free gift with purchase.
- Rebates to help you save money on your toy purchases.
- Coupons that can be combined with sale prices to reduce the cost of a toy even further.
- Doorbusters or special store events that offer an item or gift card to the first customers to arrive when the doors open.
The Holidays Are About More Than Gifts
While every child certainly deserves a toy for Christmas, keep in mind that your children don't need to receive an entire room full of presents for the holiday to be special. Don't forget that toys are only one small factor in creating happy holiday memories. Traditions like baking cookies, singing Christmas carols, attending a worship service, or building a snowman can be just as meaningful as the opening of gifts.