It should be obvious by now that here at Cool Mom Picks, we love presents. (We have 350 of them in this year’s holiday gift guide, which we think you should check out, if you haven’t already.) But even more, we love when our gifts give back in big ways. And what better way to get in the spirit of giving this holiday season than with toys for kids who need it most?
So, here, I’ve rounded up some of the best ways for families to donate toys to children this month. Add them to your list, and get your own kids involved by choosing the toys they think kids just like them would love to unwrap on Christmas morning. I promise, it’ll be the most fun shopping trip you take all season.
Related: 35 truly fabulous gifts that give back to 35 fabulous causes
Toys for Tots
This is a name we all recognize, and for good reason. This organization, started by the marines, has been providing gifts to underprivileged kids for over 20 years now and they deservingly rank among the top charities nationwide. Visit their website to see if your city has a toy drop-off this time of year (my community has tons around the city) or donate at your local Toys R Us or Babies R Us. Toys should all be new and unwrapped.
If you read our editor Kate’s reflections on St. Jude’s, you know we’re huge fans of the amazing work they do for children and their families. And we love that St. Jude’s accepts toy donations year-round, not just during the holidays. Make sure you check out their list of suggested toys to see which ones are appropriate for this setting. Of course, St. Jude’s isn’t the only hospital accepting toy donations this season. If you have a children’s hospital near you, see when and how they are accepting gifts so you can drop some off to kids in your neighborhood who can’t make it home for the holidays this year.
Operation Homefront provides assistance to military families in the form of cash, repairs, food, and of course, toys for Christmas. This time of year, they partner with Dollar Tree to collect and distribute toys for kids of military families. Check out their events page to see if there’s a toy drive in your area or register to set up a collection bin at your office, home, church or other place of worship.
Related: 5 wonderful ways to give back as a family all year long
TODAY Toy Drive
If you’re in and around New York City, you can visit the TODAY plaza between now and December 23 to donate your toys during a live broadcast. They’ll be accepted by celebrity “elves” — a group that, in the past, has included Jon Hamm and George Clooney. (Just saying.) And for those of us who live far away, the TODAY show has made it easy (although not quite as star-studded) to donate too. You can purchase directly from their Amazon wish list, and they’ll take care of the rest.
Because they’re so connected to the community already, synagogues, mosques, and churches may be some of the best resources for giving to the needy. My own church lets you adopt a family to shop for each Christmas, meaning you get an actual wish list that includes items for each member of the family. And it’s especially heartwarming to know you’re getting a child the exact gift they’ve been hoping for. If you’re not part of a community of faith, try looking into other local non-profits that may be hosting toy drives, like Big Brothers, Big Sisters or the Salvation Army. Many of these accept gently used toys as well as new ones, which is a great opportunity to make room for this year’s present haul.
Since I’m relatively new to Nashville, I’m still learning all the great nonprofits and charities in our city, and the Homeless Shelter Directory has been such a helpful resource. It lets you search by state and city for shelters, many of which are actively seeking donations this time of year (and throughout the year). Plus, you can usually drop off these donations right at the shelter, letting your own kids see the direct impact of their generous giving.