If there’s one thing kids cut into, it’s your previous DINK (Double Income No Kids) fun budget. No one denies that children and their requisite gear are expensive. Taking advantage of generous donations of gently used kid goods is one way to curb the cash flow, but buyer (or accepter) beware–not all hand-me-downs are created equal. The next time kindly friends or family members offer up their babies’ retired stuff, keep your child’s safety in mind and refer to this list of what’s okay and what to steer away from.
Bottles and sippy cups get a lot of abuse at my house, but occasionally a certain style or brand never really takes. Something about the suction or nipple just isn’t to my daughter’s taste. Accepting cups or bottles never or nearly never used is generally okay, as is taking ones in excellent condition. What you want to beware of is cups with visible teeth marks, tears in the silicone or plastic, or any that are older, since plastics can start to deteriorate.
Surprisingly, using a hand-me-down car seat isn’t strictly a no-no. As long as the seat is less than 5 years old, free from damage and cracks, and comes from a trusted source, you might be okay to accept a used one. Safety guidelines and improvements in design make using older car seats unwise, and if the seat has ever been in an accident, its protective abilities could be compromised.
The same rules apply for other baby gear like strollers, high chairs, and pack-n-plays. Make sure the safety features are in line with current standards and that the equipment is clean and damage-free, and you’re good to go. When all else fails, check the Juvenile Manufacturers Products Association website for certified products that meet safety standards.
Clothes, as long as they’re stain-free and you like them, are always a safe bet to borrow or pass along. Some of my favorite outfits have come from friends’ children or consignment sales, and the thrill of saving just increases my enjoyment of the outfit.
But be careful when putting your child in used shoes. Well-worn footwear conforms to your foot, and putting new or unsteady walkers in someone else’s footprint could compromise walking skills or even affect foot formation for your tiny toddler since they grow and change so rapidly.
Shoes constructed of non-breathable material could contain bacteria as well. Use your best judgment. If the shoes in question are in excellent shape or will only be worn on special occasions, accept away.
If you’ve had a child since 2011, you’ve probably heard all about changes in crib safety standards and not accepting older models, like ones with drop sides. But other crib hardware and mattresses also have safety standards too. Getting a hand-me-down crib from a trusted source (like yourself from an older sibling) always helps, but double-check the safety standards before committing. The good news is, toddler beds are much more low-tech and thus much less likely to cause any safety concerns. Good condition is what you’re looking for there.
Kids age through toys almost as rapidly as they do clothes, and if you’re lucky enough to have a friend with a child a year or two older, you might find yourself on the receiving end of a bounty of age-appropriate fun stuff as your child grows. The one cautionary note is bath toys. Keeping mold and mildew away from bath toys is difficult enough that they’re generally toast long before the kids tire of them, so say “No thanks,” to cousin Susie’s rubber ducky.
The benefits of reading to your children are many, including developing better cognitive skills and increasing the likelihood they’ll read on their own for pleasure later on. Of course, there are some cherished classics parents won’t part with for sentimental reasons, but if you’re gifted children’s books, take them and enjoy!
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Emily Brown is a preschool teacher, freelance writer, and mom to two energetic, funny little girls with a flair for drama and a shared love of cheese and pickles. She’s also written a book on the history and food of restaurants in Birmingham, AL called Birmingham Food: A Magic City Menu.