I get it, it is so satisfying to chuck things in the trash. But there are fun ways to upcycle broken toys and keep them out of the landfill! If you’re not feeling creative, there are ways to just recycle toy parts as well. For the past few years I’ve been building a “tinker box” where I put broken parts and pieces that I think could be repurposed, I hope in a few years my kids can go to town and make all sorts of new creations from their old toys!
In an ideal world, we’d fill our house with beautiful handmade, heirloom quality toys that were rotated on a regular basis and treasured by our son. In the real world, we receive generous gifts from friends and family, handmedown noisemakers, and our son mainly plays with kitchen utensils!
Obviously if a toy is still in good, working order please drop it off at your local consignment store, Craigslist it, or donate it. Let someone else love it!
For those toys that are missing arms or blaring static instead of music….
I know, this word is so overused. But just because something looks like it’s been run over by a car, doesn’t mean it is useless. Ask your child to brainstorm 10 ways you could use the toy in a different way! Ripped books and magazines can be used for collage crafts or greeting cards. Here is a great idea from Playtivities on turning broken toys into a brand new game.
I really like the upcycling that is taking place at Happen’s Toy Lab in Cinncinnati, Ohio. They advertise that kids can “Create your own one-of-a-kind thingamajig from our massive selection of “recycled” toy parts.” Check out one of the action figures that a 3 year old created and shared on their website!
Adults can upcycle toys too! Here are two fun decor projects using up old action figures and plastic animals.
Lamp from Anything but Plain – their website is dead now but leaving the image up for inspiration!
(not pictured) – a really cool old toy to monster upcycle on youtube!
Kids break stuff! Parents lose stuff! People will happily buy your replacement stuff! We were given a Leapfrog musical table that lost a leg in transit and I hated to think of pitching it because of one dopey leg. Thanks to Ebay, I had a new leg for $9 instead of buying a new $30 table. Make some extra money and list your odds and ends on Ebay instead of throwing them out.
3. Freecycle or Craigslist
Check out your local Craigslist and/or Freecycle for posting requirements and then set up an ad/send out an email for whatever you’re trying to clean out. I recently gave away a broken RC Helicopter, malfunctioning printer, and broken baby toy remote to different people on Craigslist. People are often looking for supplies to use in art projects or science experiments!
Look at your toy’s components and see if any of it can be recycled. Plastics don’t necessarily have to be stamped with a symbol/number in order to be recycled – email the manufacturer for details. Electronic parts can often be recycled as e-waste. It is usually pretty easy to also recycle cords, CDs/DVDs, and books. Here are two links to search for what recycling is available in your area:
At the end of the day, I think tackling the over-consumption of “stuff” and trying to buy used instead of new is just as, if not more, important than recycling old toys. But grandparents are always going to send gifts, and plastic toys will always multiply in the dark, so let me know if you have any other ideas to keep broken toys out of the trash and put to good use.