Buying Toys From the Thrift Store

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Do you guys buy toys from the thrift store?

When I was 24, several years before I became a mom (you see–my thrift diving goes waaaay back, yo!), a thrifty friend of mine and I used to joke:

“Hmmm uuhhhh, girl….just wait till we have kids! We’re gonna take them to the thrift store and let them pick out a 10 cent bag of toys and they’re gonna think they’re gettin’ a TREAT!”

Um….yeah….so, fast forward 10 years later…..and you can ask my boys–Mommy wasn’t joking!


How you can often find my kids at the thrift store–sprawled on the floor playing in the toy aisles!

Going to the thrift store is one of our favorite weekend activties. Watching my kids pick through piles of discarded, dirty toys, looking for their next big shooter, or “cool car” with bright colors that does cool tricks is actually pretty entertaining. They’re having FUN.

And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Most people I know would be 1) disgusted, and 2) ashamed to even consider buying toys from the thrift store.  But here’s why I do it, and why you should consider buying toys at a thrift store:

  • Kids are wasteful. Yes, you heard me: kids are wasteful. I once bought my oldest son a $20 transformer from Target, and you know how many days he played with it before it ended up at the bottom of the toy box? ONE. Lesson learned: Buy cheap from the thrift store. No tears shed if they become bored with it.


  • It’s economical. Kids outgrow things soooo quickly! One month they’re into trains. The next it’s cars. And don’t forget baby toys. You MIGHT get a couple months out of THAT, because they grow so quickly! Thak this Exersaucer I bought at the thrift store for my infant. Paid only $10. Brand new they sell for at least $50! I may have used it only a few months. I’m about to list it on Craig’s List because it’s taking up space. Think I can get $20 for it? 😉
  • Bribery. Consider it a tiny bribe to lure the kids to the thrift store so Mommy can look around. “Yeah, you get to look at tttoooyyyss!” If the kids are happy rolling around playing with dirty toys, then Mommy is happy. And although inflation has increased that 10 cent toy bag to $2.00, hell–it’s a small price to pay for happy kids and an afternoon of thrift diving!

Now that you know WHY I shop thrift stores for toys, here are a few of my favorite toys to buy at the thrift store, along with a couple tips:

My Favorite Thrift Store TOYS and TIPS!

  •  Disinfect! Bring wipes. Yep, the toys are dirty. Every other little kid has been wiping their grimy pals all over the toys. Wipe your kids’ hands when you get to the car (or sooner!!) And don’t forget to wipe down their “new” toys!
My oldest son playing on a cool bike-trike-scooter thingy he saw at the thrift store.
  • Think: RESELL VALUE. It’s okay to buy the occasional “cheapie” from the thrift store. In fact, it’s encouraged to buy cheap! And, hell, 80% of my kids’ big cars/trucks have beem $2.00 or $3.00 “cheapies” from the thrift store, including this cool $3.00 bat mobile. We’ve had it for at least 4 years, and surprisingly enough, it’s very good quality!

However, keep your eye out for things that you can resell on Craigslist or eBay when your kids are done with them. LEGOS! LEGOS! LEGOS! Holy crap, those things are expensive! I have bought my kids 2 big bags of them from the thrift store, as well as a Lego table for $10. When my kids outgrow them, I have no doubt we will make up our money, and then some. The latest bag we picked up this weekend came with these guys:


Last I checked, these LEGO figures were selling 3 for $10 at the Lego store! This is about $30 worth, all from the thrift store! So we definitely scored big!


Huge container of LEGOS from the thrift store, $24. These will keep a kid entertained for DAYS.
We also picked up these Star Wars guys for $2.00 total.
And this little guy was included! 🙂
  • Get creative! Young kids LOVE to cut up stuff…..paint stuff……stamp stuff…..Keep and eye out for anything you could use for arts and crafts with kids. It’s ususally marked pretty cheap. I just happened to find this set of rubber stamps, and 2 punches, all for $2.00! At Hobby Lobby, you could easily have spent $50 on a stash like this! The kids loved playing with these this weekend.
11 stamps….and 2 punches….all for $2.00 at the thrift store!


Scrapbooking punches!
  • Buy educational toys! I don’t know about YOUR thrift store, but I have always seen an abundance of educational toys at thrift stores. What else will people do with that stuff after Lil Ray-Ray has mastered his ABCs and 123s? Donate it. That’s right! I love buying educational toys for my kids from the thrift store. I always seem to find good stuff, like this Melissa and Doug abicus, for $3.00, and these blocks, for a few bucks.
This weekend I found some really cheap fridge magnets, to help my toddler learn his own ABCs and 123s, and I THOUGHT they would be a great idea for $2.00…….
……until my 9 month old proved overwise to me….. LOL (check out those cute little tippie toes)…..so I had to remove them. 🙁
  • Price check! Use your cell phone to do a price check online (via your smart phone scanner app), to be sure you’re really finding a good deal. Sometimes (often!) the thrift store marks things up a ridiculous amount, only to find that you could have bought the same thing, brand new, for just a few dollars more somewhere else.
Anyhow, don’t be afraid to take your kids (or grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc) thrift diving for some toys! This level of play can’t be had at Target, where toys are all sealed up in 10 layers of plastic. HAHA. Let them explore! Get their hands dirty! And be on the lookout for some great deals!
Your turn: DO YOU BUY TOYS AT THE THRIFT STORE? What are your own tips?



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  1. Hello, can any one help get me toys from thrift store, I live in Nigeria, I want lots of toys…i direct me how to go about getting it…

  2. Yes!!! So many are missing out on amazing deals. I have a 5 yo we have been thrifting every weekend for that time he calls it the toy store! Toysrus is closed? Who cares!!!

    My best find, a good size bin of wooden train tracks with a bunch of Thomas trains for ****$2***** it was unmarked I asked for a price the lady wanted it sold! In my head I would have paid up to $20 for that set. It was easily $150-200 new!

  3. Exactly my girls in the thrift stores. They’re almost 4 and almost 2 and taking them to a thrift store is like a fun day out for them. We’ve picked up so many puzzles, cars and even a mat with roads on it for the cars, educational games, dress up supplies etc, it’s so much fun and I’ve saved loads of money by not buying new.

    1. Exactly, Bec! I’m kids LOVE the thrift store! It’s a fun place for kids and hopefully inspires them to keep going when they grow up. 😉

  4. Rita Watson says:

    My granddaughter is 7 months and I wanted to get her some toys to play with since she is now in the exploring stage. I heard about a toy from VTech called Crawl and Roll ball and I priced it at Walmart for $24.97 and I found it at my local thrift shop for $3.80. I was jumping up and down inside myself in the middle of the isles at the thrift store. Real bargain. Hopefully it works, I need to get batteries. So yes I find all her toys there and I also I get her books too. I found books from Dr. Seuss so I racked up on that. I love the thrift store…that’s the only way I shop for clothing, shoes, majority of everything. Oh, I found her a very nice stroller for $21.00. such a great bargain.

  5. P.S. I think about you every time I see weird and freaky at the thrift store! Lol

  6. Jackie, I think you’re right–I often wonder, too, I’m general, how much good stuff doesn’t make it to the floor’ I know if I worked there I would be swiping up the goodies. Lol. Them again, maybe there are rules in place to prevent that.

    Selling 80’s toys–great idea!

  7. Sadly, toys are becoming increasingly hard to find at some of the larger chain thrift stores in my area. I believe this is due to the lead-content scare of toys made overseas. Playing better safe than sorry, I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of toy donations aren’t even making it to the sales floor.

    On the occasion that there are bins of toys, I’m the first to go digging. And I don’t even have kids! I use tattered vintage dolls for photo ops. I resell 80s toys on Etsy. And I love the set of educational alphabet blocks I’ve found. They make for some fun decor.

    Happy secondhand toy hunting!

    <3 Jackie @ Let's Go Thrifting!

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