Used kids toys | are they safe and shopping tips

Used kids toys | are they safe and shopping tips

Our Guide To Buying Used Kids Toys

What you need to know about used kids toys.

Are used kids toys safe?

Let’s kick off with this bit of controversy!

Apparently, a University in the UK tested 200 used kids toys for toxin levels.

Of those 20 of the used toys had traces of nine elements, with some concentrations high enough to fail European standards.


Scary huh?!

However, does that mean that we should avoid buying or passing on used kids toys all together?

Now, I hate scaremongering posts but I’m loathed to just write it off as scaremongering without a a bit of my own reading!



It does sound like the perfect ploy to get eco-conscious parents spending their cash on new once again.

However, there are many things that we once thought were safe that we rather tragically discovered years later weren’t. Things like sheep dip, asbestos and a chemical added to older Teflon pans for example.

To put it into perspective though, the National Health Service have a page dedicated to used kids toys and in it they say that…

Some of the pigments used in the 1970s and 1980s are best avoided, as they can build up in a child’s body over time and become toxic in the long term.

If your children have been happily playing with your old toys, there’s no need to panic.

Only a small proportion of the toys breached limits on the migration test, which simulates what might happen if toys are chewed or swallowed.

And this study has limitations. We don’t know how representative the toys collected and tested are of toys generally in circulation.

We also don’t know the age of the toys, or their condition. That means it’s difficult to advise parents about which toys might be safe to keep and which are best thrown away.

Parents might want to be more cautious of toys that are sized or shaped in a way that means they can be put into a child’s mouth, and especially of old toys that are chipped or flaking, making it more likely that bits of plastic are eaten.





But to add to this conversation, let’s remember back to December when our Facebook feeds were full of articles about how new toys being bought for Christmas were toxic.

Many of us probably avoided buying a tub of slime for our kids stocking…and then promptly forgot about it.

So, new toys are toxic too!?

This post isn’t going the way I’d planned, but please bear with me…I will offer some solutions in a minute!

Unfortunately there are some new plastic items aren’t all that great either!

Infact The Guardian reported that…

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) warned governmental agencies were fighting a losing battle against what the UN calls a “silent pandemic” of toxic pollution.

Of 1,996 consumer products tested, 563 in failed chemical tests.

Of these 563 products, 290 of them were toys found to contain illegally high levels of toxins. Most of the offending items were plastic dolls, any of which could be on sale on British high streets.

The Environmental Science and Technology journal who published the findings stated that it was older plastic toys with bright colours, especially red and yellow (like Lego) that were found to release levels of Cadmium that were higher than the new limits introduced by the European Toy Safety Directive introduced in 2009.

Used kids toys duplo
Lego have invested millions in finding a more sustainable way to make their product.

So, as parents we’re now wracked with guilt that we’ve been poisoning our kids with both their new and used kids toys…I bet you’re glad you started reading this…right?!

Anyone, who reads my posts will know that right up top on my list of favourite things are reusing things and my kids (closely followed by the ocean…oops edited to add my husband top of course!) 🤣

Handing down and buying used kids toys ultimately means that less plastic is being manufactured and sent to landfill.



This is so important if we consider quite how much plastic waste we have to get rid of.

But, my priority is keeping my children safe NOW and I bet yours is too.

So, this is how we avoid buying new toys and try to make sure that we’re using kids used toys safely:

  • Avoid plastic toys if your child is at an age where everything goes in their mouth.


  • Buy used kids toys like wooden toys, art supplies, wooden jigsaws, bikes.


  • Look for newer used toys…not all used kids toys are from the 70’s and 80’s. Most are nearly new! Infact, many charity shops can only sell toys with a CE mark stamped on them.


  • It might be a good opportunity to reduce the amount of kids toys that you have in your house (this point is as much for me as anyone else!) This is a great article about minimilist kids toys.


  • Levels of potentially hazardous elements were less for used kids toys like balls, marbles, tools, letters, model cars and trains and bath toys.





  • If in doubt, you can email the manufacturers of your child’s favorite toys to check if they comply (or are above) current toy safety standards.


  • Look for post 2009 good quality brands, as that’s when the European Toy Safety Directive was introduced. Newer, second hand Legos don’t contain PVC or phthalates and they generally exceed safety standards.


  • Most importantly, don’t panic! Please don’t chuck out all your used kids toys before considering the points above.


  • If you do have toys that you want to dispose of then consider more creative ways of using them rather than sending them t landfill. (I’ll add some ideas below that are away from children’s mouths and regular contact).



The benefits of buying used kids toys?


New toys are crazy expensive!

The toy industry is huge. In the US it reached $28 billion in sales last year  (2018) and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down.

We have found so many secondhand toy bargains for our boys.

Here are our favourite places to buy second hand online and on the highstreet.

Uses kids toys bargains
These Schleich figures cost just €1 each in a second-hand shop in France.

Our planet.

With our kids surrounded by ads and consumerism, new toys are often bought and disgarded regularly.

Whereas toys would once have been something precious we now have grandparents, friends, aunts, uncles, nextdoor neighbours all buying toys for our children for…Christmas, birthdays, un-birthdays, Easter, holidays, a new sibling, a tooth extraction, a first day at school…I’m sure I missed a few too!

Unfortunately, almost all toys are destined for one place…landfill.

So, buying used kids toys as well as attempting to ask for gift experiences or food will help reduce the amount of toys that are buried and forgotten.

How to wash used kids toys?

Plastic toys can be put in the dishwasher or washing machine in a pillowcase.

Anything else can be wiped over with distilled white vinegar diluted with water.



How to get rid of used kids toys?

Take a look at these awesome toy upcycling ideas:



Where to sell and buy used kids toys? – Buy amd sell new and used kids toys or anything really! – One of my personal favourites for buying and selling locally. Advertise to friends or use Facebook search to look for local selling sites or swapshops – Buy used kids toys. Currently only ships inside US. – apparently the number one second hand selling site in the UK. Ships worldwide. An international site for selling items to local buyers.

Kidizen – A buy and sell app for preloved items.

You can see some more apps for buying and selling here.

So, what do you think…new or used kids toys!?

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