The transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas seems to get shorter and quicker every year. So now that we’ve all moved on to the next big thing, it’s time to think about giving.  Every year, I encourage my kids, with limited success, to weed out their toys to make room for the inevitable mass of new ones. And this year, we have lots of good options for what to do with all their extra stuff.

First (and this one is just brilliant), The Smead Discovery Center at the Natural History Museum is accepting broken plastic toys — yes, that’s right, all those tiny broken pieces that have no home or game parts with no game, the junk that clutters up the bottom of toy baskets and drawers in every room in the house.  They’ll take it all, more than just the action figure parts they accepted in the past, as long as it’s smaller than 12 by 6 by 6 inches. They then send them to the Toy Lab in Cincinnati where kids make them into new toys in an arts and science lab (how cool is that?).  But they’re only accepting donations through November 30, so get busy.

Next, two lovely organizations with which I’m affiliated are having toy sales next week.  Both Family Connections, where I sit on the board, and St Paul’s Coop, where Austin attends preschool, will be collecting new and gently used toys and baby gear over the next week.  Check out their respective websites for all the necessary details: Family Connections and St. Paul’s.

And finally, the one I am most excited about: Go Public! Great Schools Are Everybody’s Business, which is a grassroots movement to foster stronger ties between Cleveland Heights-University Heights community and the public schools, is having a learning material toy drive.  The motivating idea behind this is that children can’t learn if they don’t know how to play and they can’t play if they don’t have the right toys.  As I’ve mentioned,  a significant percentage of the students in CHUH schools live in poverty and I’m certain that few of them have appropriately educational toys in their homes.  I’m not talking just about flashcards here, but books and puzzles, legos and building blocks, art supplies and board games, anything that requires imagination or creativity.

The counselors at each of our seven elementary schools will identify the 10 to 20 neediest families in each school, who will then receive a box of gently used and/or new toys to take home before the holiday break. If you have anything to share, please consider this opportunity as it has an immediate positive impact on the identified students and their entire families. For those of you who think your materials would be too young for elementary students, everything will be sorted into age categories, including pre-K and K, which will be hugely beneficial for the younger siblings in our students’ homes.

There will be collection boxes at all seven elementary schools and Coventry from Monday December 5 through Friday, December 16.  I spent hours and hours today going through all the various baskets and containers that store toys (and bits of broken plastic) in our mudroom, living room, both boys’ rooms, and the third floor playroom. I weeded, sorted, repaired, repackaged and boxed up a storm.

It was much-needed and very satisfying and, most importantly, can truly make a difference to a child in need.