Safety info, advice on where to buy and what to pay for secondhand toys, plus toys you should never buy pre-loved.
Having a baby can be expensive and toys are one costly area. Babies and toddlers quickly outgrow toys developmentally, and lets admit it - some toys are so lovely, it’s hard to resist buying them for your child. Secondhand shopping is an ideal alternative to buying toys new and can save your budget from total blow-out.
Charity shops will sell both soft and battery-operated toys, but they won't always have been checked to see if they’re working, especially if the items are dropped off without batteries. They also sell books. If you are buying online, from places like eBay, the seller should clearly state the condition of the toys, but you can ask questions if you have any doubts.
This ultimately depends on where you shop. The cheapest places will be jumble sales and car boot fairs, while eBay and private sales will be more expensive. A good idea is to never pay more than a third of what the item would have cost new. For example, if a large soft toy was £12, you should be looking to pay £4.
You are only really limited by your own imagination, as the list is vast, but try these:
Some areas also have a mobile toy library, like the mobile book library. This usually works by paying an upfront fee, around £5, and then you can borrow up to two different toys for four weeks for free. Ask at your local Sure Start Centre or council offices for details of where it stops.
Any toy that has small parts should be considered with caution. Pull at the parts to see if they’re coming loose. In particular, check the eyes of soft toys. To test if an item is too small to give to your child, draw an oval 1 3/8 inches x 2 inches on a piece of paper and cut it out. If any part of a toy can pass through the hole to a depth of 1 3/16 inches or more, this could choke your child.Be careful with any painted toy. If you’re worried that the toy has been finished with a lead-based paint there’s a test kit you can buy, but really it’s best to leave it on the shelf. New toys should be made with non-toxic paint. Also check to see if paint is flaking off. Also think about how fragile the toy is. Check the toy won't shatter or break if dropped.For toys with clothes on or stuffed toys, you need to check the material is flame-resistant.If the toys has sharp or pointed edges, avoid it, or see if the sharp edges can be filed down. If it’s a wooden toy that feels rough, you can sand it.Be cautious of any toy that needs a battery to operate. Check you can access the battery compartment to change the batteries. Some soft toys have batteries sewn in. You need to look out for battery leakage around the compartment. Finally, check that if you need to take a screwdriver to the battery compartment, the screw hasn't been rounded off with use. If in doubt, leave it on the shelf.
When a product is recalled there will always be a certain amount that aren't sent back, so be careful when you’re buying secondhand toys that you’ve done your safety checks first.If a recall has been announced recently, posters will be displayed in toyshops and supermarkets and if the recall is for a substantial amount of products it will also feature on the news. Recalls may also be displayed on the Trading Standards site and Recalled Products could help. You can also sign up to receive an email list of new recalls at UKRecallNotice.If there’s a certain brand of toy you’re on the look out for, you can call the manufacturer’s customer care centre and ask about recent product recalls, so you don't buy them by mistake. Also check the major manufacturers’ websites.
There are two well-known symbols that can be found on toy labels:
Don't rely on secondhand toys to be clean and germ-free when you buy them.
Most soft toys can be sponge wiped with a disinfectant spray and pegged out on the line to dry and some can even go around in your washing machine. Check the label first though, and make sure you put them in a pillowcase, so small parts, such as eyes, don't damage the drum. Some newer washing machines have a special baby-and-toddler cycle for a deep clean.
To kill off dormant bugs, put soft toys in a bag and put in the freezer overnight.
To clean hard toys, remove any batteries and wipe down with a clean cloth, hot water and disinfectant. Bags of plastic building bricks, for example, could be cleaned in a shallow bath with a disinfectant product.
If a toy is beyond your child's development level they’ll get frustrated quite quickly and may even cause themselves harm if a toy is misused. Most secondhand toys are sold without boxes, so here’s a general guide as to what is suitable for your child:
If you’re planning to have more children, simply put the toys in cardboard boxes and stow in the loft or garage. If you aren't or have no storage space and the toys are still in good working order, try giving them to friends or relatives, a children's centre, donating to charity shops or you could try to make some money selling your old toys on eBay or at a car boot sale.
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