Garage Sale Genius

The kids and I were at a garage sale this morning, tipped off by a girlfriend of mine that the boy who lived at that house would be getting rid of massive amounts of super hero toys. Since Benny (3yo) has become a newly-minted Spiderman aficionado, and because he has fully potty trained in under four days, I thought it would be fun to let him pick out some “big boy toys”.

We pull up to the house, and see that the driveway is full of two long rows of low tables, about 24 inches off of the ground, completely FULL of toys. Smart merchandising, Garage Sale Family.

My kids descend upon the table like locusts, and Amelia spots and scoops up a stuffed killer whale and dolphin in under 14 seconds. Impressive.

Benny, new at this game, doesn’t know what to do at first so he follows his sis to the stuffed animal section, and picks up two kittens he likes because he says they remind him of “Milo and Otis”. Directly behind him lays the selection of super hero paraphernalia, and he does a little jig right there on the spot. He has struck super hero gold. He picks out three 12inch tall figures – Batman, Superman, and I think Ironman (still learning all the guys). He then selects two sandwich bags stuffed with all of the guys – Spiderman, Captain America, Hulk, Iceman, and some guy who looks like he’s made of gorgonzola.  Amelia finds a giant 24inch plush Batman she likes, but then decides she wants to give it to our little friend Chloe who really loves Batman. Chloe has a twin brother Connor, so Amelia busies herself finding him a toy as well.

Here’s where the genius comes in — as I’m watching them discuss the merits of each new toy, I take notice as to how drastically different this is from shopping in a toy store. There is no color-coded aisles here. No boy side, no girl side. Toys aren’t segregated by gender, they are divided into “Type of Toy”. I know, it almost makes you want to fall off of your chair in shock. Amelia never would have found nature/science stuff in the pink-washed girl aisles, nor would Benny have found kittens in the dark blue-green aisles dripping with testerone.

More goodness — there is no packaging, a two-fold bonus: no gender coding from color, and no preconceived instruction as to how the toy should be used, or who should be using it. And since everything is out of the package and 24inches off of the ground, it is perfect for little people to explore and touch what they might want to purchase.

Earlier that morning we had been at Target, buying paint brushes, art tablets, and finger paint for a birthday party we were headed to. I try to avoid the toy aisles at Big Box shops whenever I can, and we usually shop for toys at independent, locally-owned shops or handmade online (read: etsy).

$8.00 later I am thanking Sam, the kid who sold us all of his old toys, and happy with our bag full of stuff that involves zero garbage or twist ties when we get home. And since the toys came with no instructions, the kids are in complete control — the killer whale and dolphin immediately get integrated into the Shedd Aquarium that Amelia retro-fitted our doll house into, and the stuffed kittens become the children of Batman and they are packing to go on vacation to Texas.

$8 worth of Sam’s junk bought me an afternoon of peace and quiet while the kids played, but it also bought me an really great experience for my kids to shop for toys the way it should be.

Let imagination rule. Long live childhood.

Benny chose kittens and super heroes.

Amelia found more sea creatures to love.


  1. I love this. Every sentence just made me grin from ear to ear.

  2. Brilliant… as usual. You promised a moment of genius and did not disappoint. Thanks.

  3. Chloe & Connor adore their new toys, thanks to their good friends and smart mommy!

  4. Awesome! I try to avoid toy stores at all costs with my children, they turn into wild animals

    Although last time we went Ems barely looked at the doll aisles and Pants walked out with a plastic shopping cart.

    It’s garage sale season now so I should take the kids and explore

  5. It blows me away that this should be so nearly impossible to find outside of garage sales!

  6. Samantha says:

    The guy in the picture with Batman is The Flash. He’s got super-speed. Just FYI. 😉

    • Ha! Yeah, I got schooled big time when my husband got home and we were showing him all of our loot. Apparently Gorgonzola Man is The Thing.

      But you know, they guys all look an awful lot like. They need to be like horse jockeys, and all wear different silks.

  7. Buying second-hand is great. I should do that more. I’ve often thought of organizing a toy exchange with friends but I’ve never gotten around to it! Maybe that could be a summer project. As far as shopping for new toys, the store we go to (Mastermind in the Toronto area) has no colour coding. There is a Lego section, a Playmobil section, a dolls section, but none of it is coded to make a child feel out of place in it (the doll boxes are pink but they can’t help that). Craft toys are next to science toys and they’re both near puzzles and games. It is great.

  8. Brilliant. So liberating.

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