By Jordan Pridemore
DAYTON, Ohio - In the third installment of Pixar's fan favorite Toy Story series, college-bound Andy carts his famously loyal toys to a day care center where Buzz, Woody and the gang face up against the sticky fingers of untrained toddlers.
Just like the movie, there is an unforgettable toy at the center of almost every childhood: a doll who was your best friend, a favorite Hot Wheels car or a game you'll never forget.
With budgets tighter than ever, purchasing used toys for a child who is developing at lightning speed can be a green alternative that's easy on the wallet.
Still, parents might have some apprehension about handing over a pre-owned Mr. Potato Head to an orally fixated toddler, so here are some tips for used-toy safety.
"The biggest thing is for parents to be aware if a toy has been recalled for lead, magnets or choking hazards." said Betsy Woods, the public relations and marketing manager of the Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Parents can find a complete list of recalls online at www.cpsc.gov.
"We really encourage parents to sign up for recall alerts, it's a nice peace of mind," said Jessica Saunders, injury prevention coordinator for Dayton Children's. "When toys are recalled, we really want to get it out of circulation."
Allyson Dosche, 46, a mother of three, has been buying secondhand toys for years. The extra care and inspection she puts into practice are key to both happy children and a thicker billfold, she says.
"There is no reason to break the bank with this year's hottest toy when it'll be available at a garage sale for a few dollars next year," said Dosche, who has been buying secondhand toys for years. "There is a stigma around secondhand toys, but my kids are so young that they don't even notice if all their Christmas presents are used, and it really does save a lot and allow us to buy more."
Eventually, almost every toy will outlive its welcome. For those hoping to place said toy in a new home with a new child to love it, donation options abound.
"We don't turn any toy donations away, but for us to keep an item it has to be something that we as volunteers would buy. It has to be usable quality," said Linda Nichols, a volunteer for the Corner Cupboard.
Similarly, Goodwill Industries accepts all toys, but the ones that make it to the shelves are clean, unbroken and in good shape, according to Goodwill representative Kim Barmlage.
"At each store, they go through the donations and determine what will sell. The toys that aren't in good enough condition are recycled," said Barmlage.
If you want your toy to land in the hands of a child who will cherish it, be sure to check for missing pieces, broken parts and make sure it isn't recalled before donating.