How to buy toys for your child care without going broke

Providing high-quality toys is not only great for the children in your care, but they can also be a real selling point for a parent touring a new space. High-quality toys can be expensive, though, and if you are just starting out, your list of necessary supplies can seem daunting at first.

What are high-quality toys and supplies?

Depending on your child care’s philosophy (or approach to play) the type of toys you will be looking to offer will vary. However, they should all be high-quality toys: ones that will last more than a few years, are made of non-toxic, tough materials like wood or canvas, or high-quality plastic, and offer a child a multitude of options when it comes to use and interpretation. Basically, if its flimsy plastic it won’t last very long with 3 to 6 kids playing with it every day. Invest in good toys now and you won’t have to buy all new toys in a year.

Open-Ended versus Entertaining

Just a quick note about what these terms refer to. An Open-Ended toy does not do the work of imagining or pretending FOR the child — so a plain block or a cardboard tube for example. A block can be a car or a road or a piece of bread today and tomorrow it can be a dog or a phone or a skyscraper. Open-ended toys also offer the benefit of being gender-neutral the majority of the time as well. Studies show offering children open-ended play experiences increases their attention span as well as their level of cognitive function.

Toys that are Entertainers are those who tell the story (or do the work) for a child. So, things like a singing activity box that looks like a dog or anything that has different buttons only for one purpose: to press and react. Other examples are blocks that look like cars, or even some toy food that gets too detailed as to just what it is. These toys not only limit our children’s capacity to pretend but they also teach them that everything they play with has to entertain them not vice versa.

Yes, there is a fine balance between offering Entertainers and Open Ended toys, in fact, offering them in conjunction tends to work out fine — after all, what child doesn’t love a good garbage truck? But if you offer a nondescript dump truck in the classroom a child can take it a step further and pretend it’s a garbage truck. However, if you offer a garbage truck with all the bells and whistles its hard for them to pretend its anything but a garbage truck — therefore limiting their scope of play.

Where to find high-quality toys on the CHEAP

Parents who are finished growing their families are typically very excited to get rid of all the toys and gear their children have outgrown. You can find pretty gently used items for half the price just by going to where parents sell/buy/trade gear and toys.

  1. Craigslist — just type in what you are looking for and boom your choices abound. If you live in a smaller town look in the closest metro area Craigslist, especially if you are looking for bigger items like tables and chairs or outdoor play equipment, it will be totally worth the drive!
  2. Next Door — this website and app are sort of like a Facebook for your neighborhood. Everyone on the site needs to verify where they live, so it really becomes your neighbor — online.

3. Facebook Groups — specifically you will want to search for buy/sell/trade and the name of your town and maybe even use the word, Mom or Mommy. Facebook has made it incredibly easy to see what someone is selling and for how much, but lots of city-wide Buy/sell/trade groups will be full of all kinds of stuff so you will want to find the family or kid-oriented one in your area! (Strollers are especially great to find in these groups.)

4. Consignment Shops — looking for wooden toys or baby items for half off or less? Consignment shops tend to have higher end items because the original owner will get a payout after they sell. This means the owners value them enough not to give them away for free or sell them online. Get to know you local consignment shop owners and they will give you the heads up when great items come in and make sure to try the shops in other cities or towns near you as well.

5. The GoodWill/Salvation Army — these second-hand stores are going to be hit or miss but if you check every week you may come out with some amazing finds (especially books and balls) and their prices will be the cheapest around. If you have a local EcoThrift store these have great options as well!

6. Put up a flyer in your neighborhood — “Looking to get rid of baby and kids gear and toys?” Making a quick flyer with your phone number or email address will help parents in your neighborhood remember who to turn to when they are ready to get rid of that highchair or crib. Then all you have to do is walk down the block to retrieve it!

7. IKEA — and when all else fails IKEA has great options at reasonable prices. We especially like their children’s dinnerware and utensils, art supplies, and high chairs — they really are quite a bargain (but if you can get IKEA items from a neighbor down the street then you have won the lottery!).

OK! You feel armed and ready to start your very own home daycare right?? If not the experts at Daybear can help! Our Specialists have years of experience helping people like you set up to care for children: from helping you to get your state license to finding families in your neighborhood who need care we are there for you every step of the way! Get started today.

feature photo by Donnie Ray Jones