Wednesday, 13 March 2013

lucy's thrifted toys... and some thrifting tips

i hit this one really good yard sale this past summer... 
and basically bought all her daughter's old toys and treasures, including her wooden food and kitchen necessities... normally when i go to a yard sale, i ask how much each individual item costs, i started doing this but then noticed just how much she had to offer... so in this case, i just gathered it all in a box, she calculated lump sums and then cut the prices as we went along... so i can either think of it as she gave me each piece for really cheap or i payed her asking price for some pieces but she gave me a ton for free. 
(i really should have taken pictures of her yard sale... it was set up so beautifully and everything was priced and ticketed like in some beautiful little toy shop... not a typically yard sale experience...)

though i do try and stay away from plastic toys, i thought these fruits would be cute for playing with outside (her mamma and pappa gave her wooden fruits for christmas - those are indoor toys) and the basket was adorable too (!) - $1

wooden puzzles and cardboard cube puzzles can be found at almost every thrift store... i've paid $1-2 each

this was one of those great finds... i was *just* thinking about getting lucy this beautiful balancing moon game... then i went into v.v. and found this version... all the pieces are there... though it wouldn't have been my first choice for a first-hand purchase, i was happy to pay only $3 for a second-hand version

i can always find tons of memory games... the one of the left is cute since it shows people from around the world ($1)... the one of the right was purchased from that beautiful yard sale i told you about... just look at the tag ♥

lucy is much too young to play and learn from this body puzzle... but i was happy to pick it up now knowing that one day i'd like to get her this exact puzzle, and since i found it now for 1/25 of the regular price, of course i had to take it - $1

i've basically bought all of lucy's books from yard sales and v.v.... my advice: always look closely in the bags of books - sometimes they mix in games and in this case, a box of brand new eric carle flash cards - $2

i got really excited when i found these old pocker chips... aren't the colours yummy?!  thrift stores always have pocker chips, but i love these vintage ones - they feel so smooth and soft to hold. they were a chocking hazard when i found them, but soon enough lucy can use them to sort, make patterns, count... the list goes on...
(they totally smelled when i took them out of their 50's package, but after some baking soda soaks and fresh air, they're perfect)

love this wooden box drum - $3
(it was missing the sticks so i made some: i bought rubber bouncy balls from the dollar store, drilled holes into them and stuck wooden dowels (left from lucy's valentine wands) into them... they work perfectly)

paper accordion... cute eh? - 25 cents

ok, these white acrylic letters might not be for lucy...

there are always a variety of shape-sorters available at thrift shops... this wooden brio shape sorter has a funny story: the first time i showed it to lucy, i showed her how to place a shape through the hole... she gave me a 'why don't you do it like this?' look... flipped over the box, open the slot and dropped all the shapes in... no sorting necessary... the idea for lucy was to get the shapes *in* the box as quickly and efficiently as possible. she's brilliant that girl of mine ♥ - brio box- 25 cents

one of lucy's favourite pull toys is her wooden snake -$2.50

 lucy was really excited when she woke up one morning to a parade of italian sheep walking across the breakfast table...

i love that playmobil just lasts and lasts forever... these all came in a bag - $3

ok, so these trains weren't thrifted but they came from the 'as-is' section at ikea... i bought two sets that normally would have costed $20 each  at the time, but since they were each missing a train, i got them for $2 each

same with these dwell studio puppets, they weren't thrifted but were in the clearance section at chapters for 50% off. i bought them ages ago and so far have given lucy the bunny.

not thrifted, but only $1 from the dollar store... this is one of lucy's few things from the dollar store... although she doesn't actually play the 'connect 4' game, this activity is great for working on her fine motor skills. she places one little button into a slot at a time. lucy has never been one to put toys or small things in her mouth, so i've never been worried about her (though she used to always be supervised when she started playing with this at 15 mths)

the wooden bowling pins and ball are to work on lucy's muscle development (these are tiny... maybe 4" tall). she isn't particularly 'strong' or rough... when she she plays this, i have to ask her to roll the ball as hard as she can... she'll know if she rolled the ball hard enough if the pins fall over... sometimes she gently tosses the ball (she isn't allowed to throw a ball in our house) - $1

i've done a lot of toy thrifting... here are some tips that may help you find some great toys for your little ones:

1- if possible, thrift often - drop into stores as often as possible and to as many locations as you can... i have several thrift stores close by, but i also stop at other locations if i see them on my way somewhere or know that one will be close to where i am going.

2- be picky - eventually you'll see a lot the same ol' same ol', espcially when it comes to plastic toys. if you see a certain toy in several thrift stores, there's probably a reason it is there rather than being passed along lovingly to family or friends... just skip it and leave it on the shelf. if pieces are missing, broken or torn to a point that it bothers you or it is unsafe, then again, just skip it... 

3- love the material - help your kids grow an appreciation for good quality materials... again, skip the plastic when possible. look for wood, metal, ceramics, glass, wool, linen... if kids are exposed to these materials from a young age, they will know how to treat them with care (glass: meaning small glass cups to play house with; magnifying glass; jars to keep pom-poms or feathers in...)

4- don't hoard... even if it's cheap - i see a lot... i mean a *lot* of wooden board puzzles... but really, lucy only needs a few (a- our house is small and we don't need 'extra junk'... b- i don't want lucy to be overwhelmed with unnecessary toys) so at this point, unless it's somehow different from the rest (i.e. a new challenge for her) i just leave it on the shelf for another happy customer to find a sweet deal.

5- where is it made? - check to see if there are any brand name or country labels. lucy's animals didn't look like dollar store quality - sure enough, the bottom reads 'made in italy'. there are just too many risks and recalls related to poorly made toys... again, be picky and stick to the good-stuff.

6- go to yard sales early - this is pretty obvious... but not always so easy with kids. mikko knows i love yard saleing... it kind of came with the marriage... when lucy was only a few months old, mikko would drive and lucy was in the back so that every so often i could feed her... last summer, lucy would have been bored and cranky, so saturday mornings from may to august, he stayed in bed and got up with lucy when she was ready... and i hit the road sans-lucy... i was able to whip around the neighbourhood quickly and easily... and of course, i went first thing in the morning to get all the best finds.

7- vinegar and water - i always make sure to wash all the thrifted toys before giving them to lucy... a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water will do... sometimes i have to dunk the whole item, other times i just spray it and wipe it clean.

8- use thrifted toys as gifts for your child - i remember when i was in v.v. once buying bags of mega blocks, a teenage boy standing in line said to me: "wow, you are going to make some kid really happy... it doesn't matter where toys come from... what matters is that they get toys..."... i thought that was really sweet and sincere, coming from this young guy who maybe wasn't as fortunate as a child... and that's what i plan on doing - most of these thrifted toys shown in this post are sitting in the basement waiting to be given to lucy... some of them will be wrapped nicely and given as gifts... some of them will be surprise 'i love you' gifts. if i'm going to be staying home with lucy full-time, i'll have to shop carefully -even for gifts- and thrifting is a great way to do so.

9- don't just stick to the 'toys' aisle - although most of the toys posted today were from the 'toys section', not all of lucy's toys started that way... her kitchen toys came from the kitchen aisle (tine metal tea pot... tiny pans... sugar dish used as a casserole dish... small jars...); she has instruments from the 'wood section' (for some reason they always put 'wooden things' together...); costumes from the 'clothing section'... just keep your eyes open and imagination going as you move through the aisles

10- buy gender neutral, 'girls'' toys and 'boys'' toys - lucy's toys aren't particularly geared towards girls specifically... i try to avoid that. most of her toys are 'gender neutral' in colour, images and subject-matter... she has puzzles with trucks (who doesn't love trucks?!) and we'll be giving her the train set soon - although she has naturally prefered playing with dolls and stereotypical 'girls'' toys, we give her equal opportunity to explore a variety of toys.

11- buy for the future - as you're shopping, think about what your child might play with in the near future... not ten years from now (unless you spot something spectacular...) again, be picky: you might find something better than that between now and then... *but* jump on it if you really love it because you might not find it second-hand again and of course i wouldn't want to you pay retail price for it later (!)

12- keep in mind that 'thrifting' most often means buying things *second-hand* - although you might choose something a little different if you were to buy something first-hand (i.e. different colour... different brand...), buying second hand means settling with what you can find... (for example, i wouldn't have necessarily chosen green for a rody horse, but for $4, i was happy)  even so, i still say 'be picky' - if you think you can find exactly what you're looking for, then just wait... i hope you'll find it (!)

any other tips or advice you can offer??


  1. I read this post this morning - and I had to come back and post a comment. Your post made my day. I'm excited that someone else thrifts for their baby - you make me want to go to the thrift store and collect a little stash of toys for the future

    1. yay!! go for it ;) have fun thrifting!