Parents have always relied on clothing and equipment hand-me-downs as a way to keep up with their babies' growth spurts. Online recycling sites have made the circle of givers much bigger. And with the economy and the environment in such bad shape, that’s welcome news.
While eBay and Craigslist are obvious places to turn when Baby is too big for her swing or needs a new high chair, parents are also using targeted sites. Swapbabygoods, for example, is restricted to baby and mommy items only. Swaptree specializes in books, music, movies and games.
Not all sites traffic in straight swaps. Handmedowns is a monitored clearinghouse for classified listings in 30 different locations – you can buy, sell, or donate goods from coupons to clothes. But on some, like Swapmamas and Kizoodle, no money changes hands; if you don’t find something you want to trade for, you accrue credits for future swaps.
Sometimes swaps happen unconventionally. Swapbabygoods, like many of these sites, has community boards. In a discussion about making your own laundry detergent (cheaper and just as effective as store-bought, moms reported), one mom said she couldn’t find an ingredients and another offered to send it to her as a swap.
Of course, swapping a large item like a crib with someone across the country is impractical. That's one reason for the rise in local swap options - many are part of local parent groups' online hubs. San Francisco mom Sarah wanted a different baby bathtub; she posted hers on the local parents' site and traded it for a model that suited her better. “You get things, use them (or don't) and then pass them on through these online communities, and that's pretty great,” she says. And Brooklyn mom Barbara has gotten a wooden rocking horse and a cardboard playhouse through a local Yahoo parents group.
Cruwys says that she’s been “blown away by the generosity” of Swapmamas participants, many of whom have just given things away. “There are people out there that really want to help people, especially during these hard times, and this is a supereasy way to do that.”
Region: National, but Texas, Florida and New Jersey are especially well represented.
What you'll find: Baby and mama items for sale, swap, and swap for credit, plus community boards.
How it works: Simply list what you've got and/or search for what you need.
Sample swap: Fisher Price Musical Swing for boy's clothing sizes 12 mo. and 18 mo, or $30.
Region: National, but moms are forming regional groups too
What you'll find: Swaps, swaps for credit and giveaways of mom, baby and kid items, and services.
How it works: Mom community meets swapping on this friendly site. The idea: If you get to know someone through their profile, you'll feel happier swapping with them.
Sample swap: Pair of pink cowboy boots, girls size 7 for free. The recipient's baby wasn't even walking yet - they're serving as nursery decoration till she grows into them.
Region: Like Craigslist, Handmedowns has separate sites for 30 metro areas.
What you'll find: Baby, kid and parent stuff, plus services like childcare and child photography, and unwanted coupons
How it works: Buy, sell or give away - think CL for families
Sample swap: Pali Oak Crib with Storage Drawer for $150 (retails at $900)
Region: Nationwide; you can also use the site to set up your own group.
What you'll find: A so-so selection of baby, kid, mom, and dad stuff, plus lots of unwanted coupons.
How it works: Swap with any member using Kiz Credits. Start by posting your stuff in your Kiz Store - when you sell something you earn credit to spend (you also receive credits for signing up).
Sample swap: The First Years massaging teether for 50 Kiz credits
What you'll find: Books, music, movies, games for the whole family
How it works: You make a list (by barcode - it’s listed on the back) of books, CDs, DVDs or video games you want to get rid of and this super high-tech site immediately sends you a list you can swap them for. Or, if you know what you want to receive, the site notifies you when your swap is available. Then it figures out the postage and lets you print a mailing label straight from the site. You just have to drop your item in the mailbox.
Sample swap: Wild About Books by Judy Sierra for Walt Disney’s Cinderella (the book)
What you'll find: Books for the whole family, including Baby
How it works: This is a "buy" site only.
Sample swap: The Cat in the Hat for 99 cents.
Region: Global. Hundreds of local groups exist across the U.S. and the world
What you'll find: Whatever you need - furniture, maternity clothes, baby clothes and gear…
How it works: Freecycle is for giving and getting free items. After you've subscribed to your local group (you'll need a Yahoo ID), you can offer a giveaway or ask for something you need - but not as an exchange.
Sample swap: Wanted: breast pump, bottle warmer, milk storage bags, clothes for an 18 month old; offered: boys clothes, crocheted baby sweaters, Graco Snug Ride car seat