Good Gifts for Toys for Tots

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The Toys For Tots progam works to assure that all needy children receive presents during the holiday season.
Image Credit: Margarita Khamidulina/iStock/GettyImages

In 1947, after Marine Corps Reserve Major Bill Hendricks realized there were no organizations in Los Angeles distributing toys to needy children at Christmas, he and a group of fellow Marines collected 5,000 toys for local families. The Marines made Toys for Tots a national program the next year.

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These days, Toys for Tots distributes around 18 million toys annually. You can contribute by dropping off a new, unwrapped toy at a Toys for Tots collection site during late November or early December. As for Toys for Tots donation ideas, the organization will accept nearly any kind of toy intended for any age group. So, if you think something seems like a great gift, there's probably a kid in your community who will think so too.

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What Toys for Tots Suggests

There's only one problem with choosing toys to donate for Toys for Tots: It can be hard to narrow down your options without any guidelines. The organization intentionally doesn't publish a list of recommended toys for Toys for Tots, explaining that they encourage a broad range of gifts. They also don't provide suggestions regarding a price range, so it's up to you to determine how much you're comfortable spending on toys to donate for Toys for Tots.

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Toys for Tots suggests thinking about gifts that a child in your life would love. To generate Toys for Tots donation ideas, go right to the source and ask young relatives for input. If they like a toy, other kids their age are bound to like the same thing. Ask them to help you brainstorm a list of toys that they would be excited to receive or have them look at the current weekly ad for your favorite big-box store and help you decide which new toys seem like they would be the most fun.

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Toys for Tots Donation Ideas

Getting a child's expert advice about recommended toys for Toys for Tots can be useful, but it's certainly not necessary. When in doubt, pick something from one of the classic categories of toys. Sporting equipment (like a basketball, soccer ball or football), board games, dolls, cars and trains, books and art supplies are all good choices. You can't go wrong by donating a simple stuffed animal or a LEGO set.

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Gifts that encourage creative pretend play, like clothes for playing dress-up or a restaurant play set, are also perennially popular with young kids. Channel your inner child and wander the toy section until you see something that you would have loved as a kid.

Keep in mind that many local Toys for Tots collection drives serve preteens and teens as well as younger kids. For these kids, recommended toys for Toys for Tots include sports equipment, art supplies, backpacks or purses, age-appropriate board games or handheld games, perfume and makeup or other beauty supplies/accessories.

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Toys to Avoid for Donation

According to the organization's rules, there are only two types of unacceptable toys that you shouldn't donate to Toys for Tots: realistic-looking weapons and any gifts that contain food.

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There are many other kinds of toys that aren't ideal for Toys for Tots. Avoid donating anything that requires additional supplies or resources to use. For example, an Easy Bake Oven might come with just a few cake mixes. After the child uses those, the family might not be able to afford refills. If you're donating something that requires batteries, tape at least one package of new batteries to the toy.

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Any games or toys that require internet access aren't ideal for some low-income families. Don't give DVDs, video games or other gifts that only work if you own a certain kind of player or gaming console. Avoid donating any toys that are overtly religious since Toys for Tots serves families from all backgrounds.

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