With the holidays right around the corner, many nonprofits are gearing up to ensure that the 2023 holiday season is joyful for all families. If you need a little extra help this season, here is a list of organizations that are distributing free toys to kids in need. Note that deadlines are fast approaching, so be sure to reach out early if you need a little help this year.
If you aren't struggling and want your family to start a tradition of giving back, reach out to one of these groups to see how you can donate free toys or offer other assistance. Not sure what gifts to donate? Our Gift Guide has recommendations for kids of all ages at all price points for toys and gifts that kids adore.
For more ways to save money this holiday season, try giving homemade gifts that kids can make themselves, like bookmarks made from recycled holiday cards or salt dough handprint ornaments. Our Christmas Activities and Hanukkah Guide also includes lots of free ways to have fun with your family this holiday season.
Toys for Tots has distributed free toys to children for decades. Photo courtesy of Toys for Tots
For decades, the Marine Toys for Tots Program has collected and distributed new toys to less fortunate children at Christmas. Applications to receive toys can be filled out online. First, find out if your local chapter is accepting applications for toys by using the search engine; the chapter's page will have links to family and agency toy applications.
The Salvation Army offers a variety of services to those in need. Among them is the Rescue Christmas program, which many of us associate with those iconic red kettles and jingling bells. Donations help provide shelter, food assistance, and other services to the needy, but there's also the Angel Tree Program, in which donors purchase gifts to fulfill the angel wishes on the tree. To apply, start with the online application process or contact your local chapter.
This group spreads holiday cheer and gifts to low-income families in four different locations: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Swansea, South Carolina; West Columbia, SC; and Atlanta, Georgia. Click on the state's holiday give-a-thon page to register.
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Adopt a letter from a real kid and send gifts in Santa’s place through USPS Operation Santa. Photo courtesy of Operation Santa
Each year, thousands of letters are sent to Santa from children around the country through the US Postal Service. Those sent to a specific North Pole address are posted online, where anyone can read them and adopt a letter writer to shop for.
Operation Homefront’s Holiday Toy Drive helps bring holiday cheer to military families. Start by registering for an account. When you are eligible for the event, it will appear on your Dashboard and you can register to attend. Also, keep an eye on the events calendar for the goings-on near you.
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Catholic Charities helps families in need during the holiday season. Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities offers Christmas assistance to families that need help, with local offices providing services based on the needs of their communities. Go to the national site, search for your local chapter, and reach out to get the help you need.
United Way's local offices work hard to ensure that all families experience some joy during the holiday season. To get help, enter your zip code to search for your local chapter and contact it for more information.
This Reddit community aims to buy gifts for those who may not otherwise have the means. Those with a Reddit account who want to apply can make an Amazon wish list (items totaling less than $100), fill out an application, and, if approved, write a post to the community about your needs.
Other Resources for Free Toys for Kids this Holiday Season:
- Local churches can be good resources to tap. Many help families in need for the holidays.
- Local Buy Nothing Facebook groups and Freecycle are great places to find free second-hand toys.
- Local chapters of the Lions Club and other similar service-focused groups often host toy drives.
- Food pantries sometimes stock small toys for children, check with the ones near you.