Friday, April 29, 2011

Toy swap

I've read lots articles over the past couple of years about swapping various goods, and the idea has been percolating in my mind for awhile. As a member of my MOPS leadership team, I decided that would be a good group to try a swap with. And since we're all moms with young children, I thought toys would be an easy item to target.

Here is how it worked for us:

First, I handed out the list of guidelines below at one of our meetings so everyone knew what to expect.

Guidelines for the MOPS Toy Swap

  • Please only bring toys that are in good condition—no broken or missing pieces.
  • In addition to “regular toys,” we will accept puzzles, games, sports equipment, and art supplies. DVDs and music CDs should be targeted to younger kids. (No VHS or cassette tapes)
  • NO books, clothes, or stuffed animals
  • Coloring books and small toys (Happy Meal, etc.) will be placed in a box labeled “Free”

You may bring as many items as you wish—everything must be dropped off at (church) between 7-9 p.m. on Monday the 21st. We will price each item, and on Tuesday you will receive tickets based on the value of the items you bring.

On the morning of the swap, you will spend your tickets to shop for items of your choice. Tickets have a $1 value, so if you have 4 tickets and want to buy a $5 item, you will need to pay $1. All items remaining at the end of the swap will be donated to (thrift store).

There were 4 of us who collected items the night before the swap, which was nice to have more objective input on pricing the toys we received. We then organized items by category (sports, games, baby, etc.) We counted the number of tickets each swapper earned, and then put those in an envelope labeled with the person's name, which we distributed the morning of the swap.

I asked a couple non-shoppers to serve as cashiers. For the first 3 minutes of the swap, we allowed all participants to browse and select one thing. This avoided grabbing and chaos, but also hopefully ensured that each mom walked away with at least one item she really wanted. Then we had "open shopping" for 15 additional minutes, and we encouraged those with extra tickets to give them to someone else, as only a quarter of the moms in our group chose to participate.

After 15 minutes of shopping/swapping, all moms present could browse and take home any remaining items for free. Items left were donated to the local thrift store. I noted that the majority of what remained were small baby toys, such as rattles and soft blocks, so in the future, I think we would discourage that category.

So that's how the toy swap worked for us. It was a lot of fun, and I'd like to do it again next year. For me, the brilliance of the swap is that I got rid of some toys my kids no longer play with, and I was able to bring home several new items without spending any money.

Feel free to contact me if you have additional questions, but please make sure I have your e-mail address so I can respond. If you're interested in a different kind of swap, my friend Kara just posted about one here.


Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

Okay, I totally want that rocking elephant!

How did people earn tickets? Was that based on how much they donated, or was that from some other activity?

*carrie* said...

Anne Marie,

People earned tickets based on the items they brought in. If their items were worth 20 tickets, it was like having $20 of cash to spend at the swap "store."

Katie said...

Wow, Carrie ~ this sounds like a huge success and so much fun! I'm sure many appreciated your organizational skills in carrying this out ~ thanks for sharing the details here!

thehomespunheart said...

Great job in thinking through the logistics of this to help it go so smoothly! Love you, Monica

mer@lifeat7000feet said...

That is a really great idea, Carrie!

pampers coupon said...

That sounds like a great idea. I might steal it from you. :) Can i ask what does MOPs stand for though?

*carrie* said...

Sorry--MOPS stands for Mothers of PreSchoolers.

JG and CK said...

I love it! I'm always thinking, "Ugh, I don't want to spend money on (fill in the blank)! There's got to be someone somewhere who has one just lying around and wants to trade." Just think, if we did this sort of thing more often, we'd be using our resources and really cutting down on waste! Super idea!

Anonymous said...

Hi - I'm helping to organize a swap and have a question. I see that you allowed people to pay cash for an item that they did not have enough tickets for. Did you allow people to buy items outright for cash if they didn't have enough tickets? Also, was this open to anyone that didn't have anything to swap? Thanks so much!!

*carrie* said...

Hi, Anonymous. Since you didn't leave contact info, I'm hoping you'll check again here.

Only people who gave items could enter the swap area initially. Once they'd gone through and spent their tickets, we allowed anyone to walk through and buy remaining items for cash. People could also pay in combination of cash and tickets. The way we priced things a ticket = $1. Hope that helps!