Friday, 19 October 2012

Top tips for buying thrifty secondhand toys!

If you don't have a lot of money, buying toys for your children can seem a stretch too far when you look at the prices. But with a little bit of effort and the right attitude, you can still keep your child in toys they will love whether it's for birthday Christmas or just an occasional treat.

Toys have a long life span and will serve several children if looked after. Charity shops, jumble sales, online parent sites, Ebay and Nearly New sales are all excellent places to look for toys.

Top Tip 1 - Know what you are looking for

Make a list and stick to it. If you're short on ideas then do some research online: putting 'best toys 6-12 months' in a search engine gets you loads of choice. You might have some very specific wants, but if you can be flexible - any pull along toy rather than a specific one - you are more likely to get some good bargains. One shape sorter is much the same as another in a child's eyes.

Baby Meccano

Top Tip 2 - Buy when you see the right toy

If you see a fantastic toy at a great price, but your child won't be ready for it just yet, buy it anyway if you have space to store it. You might see it again but especially with unusual or older toys, you'll kick yourself if you don't go for it.

I saw this fabulous baby meccano set in a charity shop for just £2 back in the spring but didn't get it out until this summer. Big hit and a really satisfying buy.

Although some of my finds seem lucky, I am persistent and rarely walk past a charity shop without having a quick look. It definitely pays off.

Top Tip 3 - At birthday and Christmas give toys they will grow into over a few months

My son is usefully born in the middle of the year so I can buy for 6 months at a time, but whenever your child's birthday this is still a great tip that my mum gave me. Children can surprise us with which toys they are ready for so having a selection that will last a few months makes sense. Also, a huge pile of presents looks very exciting, but one child can only play with so many at once without getting toy overload!

Activity toys

Top Tip 4 - Buy durable toys

Wooden toys are great buys so long as they are physically in good condition. Tops buys we've found are wooden vehicles, pull along toys, puzzles and building blocks. These can be very expensive to buy new but as always check the price of new ones to make sure you don't pay too much secondhand.

Solid plastic toys are also good, including bath toys, tea sets, activity blocks and

Books are also a great buy, especially board books as they last a long time (so long as not too much chewing has taken place!).

Top Tip 5 - Check toys carefully before buying

If you are buying books, look through each page to check its condition, especially if it is an activity book (such as lift the flap books). Another one to check carefully is 'doing' toys. We recently found a little wind-up submarine for the bath but got it home to find that it the internal ratchet had gone and it didn't work. Instead it just bobs there. Disappointing!

Brightlings Exploration Station
Sometimes, though, it doesn't matter if something is missing. I picked up this Leapfrog Brightlings Exploration Station earlier in the year for £2. I checked over the electronics and they all worked, but it was missing the three little Brightling figures. Since they were only really there to chuck down the shute, I decided the baby could chuck lots of other things down there and bought it anyway. It was a good decision.

Top Tip 6 - Check new price (for current toys) and watch out for postage costs

When you've decided what you want to look out for, do your research on the price of your items new. This is especially important when buying on Ebay as it's all too easy to get caught out with the budding process. A lot of people buying on there don't seem to do their research and, when you put it together with the postage, pay way too much.
Less than £1

When you check prices, check out some alternatives to your first choice as the difference in secondhand price of one wooden pull along toy can be significant. Some toys are more fasionable or timeless and hold their price. But the others are generally just as good, certainly as far as a young child goes.

Top Tip 7 - Look out for unusual places to find toys
Toys from the tip

One of my favourite places to pick up sturdy bigger toys is the tip. Ours has an area for items still in good condition and you pay a very small amount of money that goes to a local charity. A large number of larger plastic toys end up here, as well as baby equipment, so it's worth checking out regularly. We got this wheelbarrow and stool, great for indoor and outdoor use, for £1. 

This amazing car, which is my son's passion and much loved by any visiting child, came from a charity that gets a lot of donations they don't need themselves so they sell on. This beautiful wooden ride-in car , with swivel wheels and a lift up bonnet that reveals the engine (complete with working oil dipstick!) cost £5. Definitely our star find this year.

Star Car Buy

Have you found any particularly good buys, or do you have any good tips about where to find secondhand toys? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

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