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Kids Birthdays: Pre-loved gifts for your loved ones

Many parents who work with climate issues are driven by a desire to make sure our own and all other children actually have a future. I’m one of those people. At the same time, we want to make our kids happy.

What happens then on Christmas or birthdays when you still want to see that tingling in your kids eyes but know, at the same time, that those presents will probably be soon forgotten and tossed in the (overflowing) bins and eventually maybe become landfill?

A poll by the British Heart Foundation found that British Children have on average four toys they have never played with. Repeat that, four toys that they have NEVER played with.

In Sweden, where I live, people buy approximately 14 kilograms of textiles every year. And every year we throw 7,5 kilograms in the trash. Overstuffed toy bins are probably causing people headaches but what is more frightening is that over-consumption is one of the major drivers for climate change.

My daughter turned 6 years old this weekend and like many other children her age she loves shiny new objects and opening gifts (preferably many of them). And, as so many other parents, I do love seeing those tingling eyes when my kids are opening their gifts.

But, I don’t want to contribute to the production of things that aren’t needed and that are just going to be filling the landfills (often in countries far from my own).

Enter the solution. Second hand gifts and experiences. Buying pre-loved things for presents is luckily becoming more and more accepted and encouraged. But, it can still sometimes feel too difficult for many.

It is actually really easy to find gifts for kids second hand, often you can even find unused stuff. Our kids are used to getting second hand presents, even though the now six-year-old, as the younger sibling, is sometimes more keen on getting NEW things. But even she is used to the idea that things are passed to new people when no longer serving a purpose.

So what did we get her and how did we do it? 

Her presents included: 

  • A bikini - completely unused from the online auction site Tradera,
  • Bike - used only around 10 times so it still looks like new,
  • A puzzle (these are really easy to find since people often don’t do the same puzzles twice),
  • Clip on earrings (BEST buy ever, four pairs of bling bling plastic earrings for 20 SEK TOTAL and she was so happy!
  • A book, 
  • A witches hat that she had wished for (to match her witch dress that she got from a friends kid). 

We did also buy her a newly produced water bottle (she needs one in her preschool and we lost her old one) and a hand-carved Robin (her preschool is a so-called nature preschool and all the kids in the group have their own birds and she is a Robin).

What about wrapping then?

This text could also be called confessions of a used wrapping paper hoarder”. Whenever somebody in the family gets a present, I’m there grabbing all the gift wrapping papers and spare strings. Our older child knows that I save all the papers and he opens his presents really carefully. 


I have a box in our wardrobe where I put this stuff for future use. My wrappings are not really a Japanese art form, but if you’re interested in that, check out Furoshiki gift wrapping. 

So, all her gifts were also wrapped in used paper. For that you can use anything you find at home, go creative!!

Here comes my best tips for buying second hand gifts: 

  • Start on time so that you have time to check online auctions and visit second hand stores. This is my biggest problem though  this year we managed to actually start ”gift hunting” on time!
  • Ask friends and family that have older kids. They might have things that their kids have outgrown and that are perfect to your little person. 
  • Or swap stuff with friends and neighbors! 
  • Check Marketplace, your local second hand-Facebook groups, Blocket, and of course physical stores. 
  • Look for things that last and that kids only use for a long time. For example Lego is often in a great condition even after years of playing. You can find people selling unsorted Lego in, for example, 10 kg boxes. 
  • Give kids experiences, we’ve previously gifted our kids for example a cooking course for children, skiing lessons, a clay course, museum visits etc. According to my now 13-year-old one of his best gifts was when he and I went to Örebro (a City in Sweden), visited their great indoor water park and stayed over in a hotel. Water slides and hotel breakfast, can you ask for more? 
  • One great tip that I just heard (this will be something for next Christmas) was a ”day with Mom/Dad alone”. The kid was allowed to choose (within reasonable limits) what they would do and eat during that day.
  • Go creative with wrapping! 

Benefits of second hand gifts

  • Almost zero emissions
  • Cheaper, you will have more money left to do things together with your children
  • You can buy more luxurious things that might have been too expensive as new 
  • You can be more creative instead of buying the same set of Lego that everybody else is buying. 
  • You’ll be part of changing the norms and attitudes 
  • With second hand clothes most of the toxins that can be found in newly produced clothes have already been washed away
  • By buying second hand you’re contributing to reuse of items and resources. Stockholms Stadsmission (a Swedish non-profit) collects an astounding 42 tons of textiles every week. This is in an area of 2 million people. 
  • You’re reducing demand for newly produced goods and therefore saving natural resources. 
  • If you buy from a non-profit second hand, you’re also contributing to their social work.


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About Anni Heikka

Sustainability advisor.