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Supacase's avatar

Is it offensive for kids to give used toys as presents?

Asked by Supacase (14538points) August 29th, 2011

The other question I asked today mentioned my daughter gathering her own toys to give to another girl as birthday gifts. My husband pointed out that giving used gifts would be insulting.

Well, no, it normally isn’t done and I do see his point. Usually I, or we, go to a store, pick out a gift and wrap it. No big deal to my daughter even if she thinks it is a great gift. It just doesn’t mean much. Of course I want the birthday (or whatever event) kid to like what they get.

The more I thought about it, though, it seemed to be much more meaningful. For a young child who is being taught generosity and sharing, it is really special for them to go into their own stuff and give away things they think are fun and have personal value. In their eyes, it is the ultimate sharing and it is a very kind gesture. Telling them no is essentially saying, “that’s a great gift, but it’s not good enough.” I want to encourage that thoughtfulness.

I know it can be explained (what would you rather get on your birthday?) but it still has me thinking about the values we are teaching our children. Should we tell our children it is super special if a friend gives them one of their own favorite toys instead of buying something new?

What is your opinion?

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26 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

Every year we would take the toys we outgrew and donate them to Good Will or the Salvation Army when we were children. My mother insisted.

Maybe you can have your daughter help you pick out toys and take them to Toys for Tots or some other local charity that repairs and redistributes toys for the less fortunate.

blueiiznh's avatar

I would not give a gift for a birthday of a used toy.
Over the years, I have given my daughters toys or bikes or other items to people we know, but ask if they want it first. The appreciate and sometimes offer money, but I just want to find a good home for the toys.
I however would not give it as some type of Birthday gift.
She has now picked up the gesture and value of finding good homes for some of her things that are major items to a family in the area. We however do it outside an event like a birthday and simply ask if they are interested as they become unused or uninterested in due to age range.
For those smaller gently worn items, we give to Goodwill or Big Brother/sisters.

RubyB's avatar

How often it takes an adult to point out to a kid that their expressions of kindness or exuberance are embarrassing. ‘Give aways’ were traditional in aboriginal tribes. I think it’s a great idea and sets a wonderful example of values we all need to learn in these hard economic times. We’ve been brainwashed into believing a gift means brand new and store bought, but who made up those rules? Corporate adverising, that’s who.

Your_Majesty's avatar

I believe the major factor is the relationship between the receiver and the giver. Basically, it’s considered more offensive if one receives used-gift from someone s/he has no close relation with, it’s different if one receive a used-gift from someone s/he befriended or think as special persons. Both condition create different perception, and it makes no difference for the kids.

It could also be judge from the quality of the present itself, among other things.

john65pennington's avatar

Give a new toy along with the used one and everything should be okay. It’s the thought that counts, but sometimes young children do not understand this and only a new toy will do.

wundayatta's avatar

If you’re giving away something you’ve used, then it has to be very special, and the recipient has to also agree on it’s value. It’s not something you wrap up and give for a birthday. It’s something that is given from one person to another, without an audience, because they both know it’s value to the other person.

Burthdays are a more formal occasion. The gifts there are for show more than anything else. It’s a social obligation, and no one expects each gift to be personalized. It would be offensive to give used gifts for a birthday party. It would not be offensive to give something personal to a friend as a gesture of friendship.

YARNLADY's avatar

Toys for Tots takes only unopened, packaged toys, nothing used.

When parents choose used toys for their children, as I do, that is OK, but for friends or relatives to do so might not be, in some families.

In our family it is always considered thoughtful when the older children gave the toys they had outgrown to the younger generation.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@YARNLADY The local one I work with takes used toys.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

The kid would appreciate it anyway, your kid would learn a good lesson but we don’t live in a world where that kind of thing matters. We live in a world where parents perform for the sake of other parents and if that kid’s parents are going to think less of you (and therefore your kid, ‘cause that’s how the cookie crumbles), it might not be worth it but the decision is up to you.

YARNLADY's avatar

Source The Official U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation Web Site. The mission of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program is to collect new, unwrapped toys…

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

When I read the question posted on the other thread, my perspective was in sync with your husband’s. If you can afford a new present, then get it. It doesn’t matter how little it costs. What does is the thought that goes into it. When it comes to gift-giving, it’s more likely to be a success if the gift chosen is one that the receiver would like instead of the giver. If it were my child, I’d talk to them about what her friend likes, then help her pick out an appropriate gift. Teaching a young child about thinking about another person’s perspective is a valuable life lesson.

Used gifts are great for solidifying a relationship if given in an informal situation, as long as they have meaning. I agree with those that say to teach your daughter to donate unnecessary and outgrown items to charities. Considering the amount of junk that I’ve carted around for years and recently have gotten rid of, I wish my parents had taught me this lesson at an early age. It has felt great to donate to those in need and liberating to get rid of the clutter.

jca's avatar

I would give the used toy but not as a birthday gift. I give my friends my used clothes sometimes, if I think they can use them, but not intended as gifts. I give it more as a “here, I thought you could use this.” Gifts, I think, should be new. Just my opinion (which is not always worth much around here).

lillycoyote's avatar

Well, what would make the little 5 year old birthday girl happy, other than pony or a real princess dress? Is there something she might really want? Something reasonable? Something that might make her eyes light up? Have you asked your daughter that? She’s her friend. I think one of lessons to be learned about being a kind and thoughtful person is that sometimes we have to, at least momentarily, put aside what we might want and think of the other person. It’s her birthday and when it’s your daughter’s birthday it’s her turn. And would he be an awkward or uncomfortable position for her to be in, to have brought a used gift? Kids can be cruel. Not everything has to be a teaching moment, life has it’s special joys and celebrations, and bright, shiny, new things are sometimes part of those occasions. Some occasional cake, ice cream, party hats, games, new things, those can be a part of a good and generous life well lived too. Just a thought.

bkcunningham's avatar

My children’s best friends in the world were two little girls whose mother was very ill. Their father worked, but it wasn’t the best paying job. They didn’t have extra money to buy gifts.

They practically lived at my house and those were some of the best times of my life. On my children’s birthdays, the little girls’ mother helped them each make a very personal card. That was it. A beautiful card from each of the girls. Filled with love and glitter and sometimes macaroni.

My children loved the gifts because they loved the little girls and their mother. I still have those cards to this day. They were given in love. That is what makes a gift special. The love. Not the cost or the wrapping paper. The love that goes into giving.


Not to poor children who would appreciate any kind of used toy in good condition. As long as the used toys are in good condition, there’s no reason why they can’t be given as gifts or donations. Every Christmas, I ask my children if they would like to give/donate any of their used toys as Christmas gifts to needy kids in the city. If they do, we wrap them and give the gifts to organizations like Santa’s Anonymous. Anything to brighten a poor child’s eyes on Christmas morning, is worth a million dollars to me.

WestRiverrat's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Ask the organization before you wrap them. If they have to open them up and inspect or repair them it may be better to give the gift and the wrapping paper, but not to actually wrap them.

Unfortunately there are people that do intentionally give inappropriate gifts. We have to screen all items that are given to the school before we let the students have them. We learned it the hard way.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES In addition to what WestRiverat said, when we wrapped up gifts for a local charity, we were required to put tags on that stated the age/gender appropriate information. The best local charity we donated presents for told us the age/gender and requests of the family we adopted as a group.

Rarebear's avatar

It is absolutely not offensive, and my daughter, when she was younger, would have parties specifically asking for no new toys, only used. It saves everybody money and lets people unload their crap.


@Pied_Pfeffer Yep, that’s what we have to do too. ;)

Supacase's avatar

@lillycoyote It wasn’t that my daughter was doing what she wanted instead of thinking of what the other girl would like. She was thinking of what the little girl would like based on the toys she has played with while at our house and she thought she was being nice and, quite frankly, so do I even if it isn’t an appropriate gift. She didn’t know that – she was sharing in the biggest way she knew how. I get the feeling you’re implying my daughter was being selfish and, honestly, that pisses me off. She wouldn’t have minded giving her a new toy, but she gave what she had on hand.

@Pied_Pfeffer Yes, that is a good lesson to teach and I think she pretty much gets it – she was very insistent that one boy get something Star Wars because it is his absolute favorite thing even though she has no idea what it is. This is a one off. Totally random, probably one-time situation that will never come up again.

There was no party. It would not have been an awkward situation even if there had been a party because the items she picked looked new anyway. In fact, and I am ashamed to say this, but some of them were so nice I wouldn’t let her give them away – her favorite Hello Kitty stuffed animal in perfect condition, several hard back books and other things like that. I had initially suggested just making her a card since they aren’t all that close, but I think my daughter has picked up on how excited the little girl is to play with toys and didn’t think that would be enough.

The end result was that the man across the street, who I think is her uncle (their family is very confusing to me), told me to bring whatever my daughter wanted because it would be appreciated, played with and special even if it wasn’t new. This little girl doesn’t get presents, shiny from the store or not. Admittedly, I’m not sure if my daughter realizes this.

She regularly goes through her things and gathers things to “give to the little kids at that place you volunteer who don’t have any toys.” That is a completely different issue than what I was asking about.

I vividly remember a school friend of mine getting a used bar of soap from her grandmother while her brothers got nice gifts. Used ‘gifts’ can definitely be an insulting smack in the face.

lillycoyote's avatar

@Supacase Yes, that wasn’t clear to me. If your daughter wants to do it then I think you should back her up. Maybe… I don’t know. The only reason not to would be if the other kids might think badly of her or make fun of her for doing it; then you might want to protect her from that. But they’re just five year olds. If it makes your daughter happy and the other little girl happy, that’s what counts, not what is considered socially acceptable or unacceptable by adults.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Thank you for the clarification. So, there is no party, and your daughter has picked out items that she feels her friend would like. If that’s the case, I’d like to change my vote.

lillycoyote's avatar

And @Supacase, I wasn’t implying your daughter was being selfish; that wasn’t my intention at all. I answered the way I did because I felt, wrongly, it seems, that she was being micromanaged, sort of. To be honest, I thought you were being selfish in this instance and too rigid in your attempts to teach your daughter a particular value system, a very good value system, yes, of course, but there are times for parties too. That’s what I was trying to say. I didn’t really understand that there was no party and I wasn’t clear that it was totally her decision to give her friend her own toys. It’s not selfish, of course. It’s totally sweet.

Supacase's avatar

Sorry I wasn’t clear at first. I think I mentioned there was no party in the other question and thought I’d done so her as well. My mistake!

lillycoyote's avatar

@Supacase By the way, what did you all end up doing, and whatever it was, how did things go? Well, I hope. Adults can sometimes get hung up on things that don’t matter in the least to kids. They are too pure of heart for some of the nonsense we adults busy ourselves with.

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