By Jaclyn Lim
Brand-new stuff from shopping malls are not your only choice if you are looking for something for your kiddo. Many parents have, at some point, accepted hand-me-downs for their children from well-meaning siblings, relatives, friends and colleagues. Take accounts specialist Angeline Ho, for example. When her kid Yeva started Primary One this year, she turned to her close friends for school needs like textbooks.
“My former school buddies are also parents, so we’ve formed an informal group to exchange stuff like textbooks, toys, clothing and shoes,” says Angeline. “It helps that our children are of varying ages – parents with older children will pass what they no longer need to those with younger children.”
Angeline belongs to a growing group of money-wise parents who are turning to pre-loved items as a cost-cutting measure.
“Children grow up very fast – accepting hand-me-downs is actually a less wasteful option,” adds Angeline, who has two other daughters, Zinnia, 10, and Xandra, 3. “Once, I bought a frilly dress and dainty shoes for Xandra, who was a flower girl at a friend’s wedding. She can’t fit in them now so I will be more than happy to lend or give them to other little girls. The other mothers in my group have the same attitude.”
It helps that most children are satisfied with the pre-loved items. Says Jamie Tan, 37, human resources assistant: “Actually, my daughter, Ashley, does not even realise that what she is using are hand-me-downs. That’s probably because I only accept items from family members or friends and make sure that they’re still in a good condition.”
However, before accepting any second-hand essentials from well-meaning folks, it is good to ask yourself a few key questions like:
- “Is it safe for my child?”
- “How long has it been used?”
- “Is this in a good condition?”
- “Does it come with an instruction manual?”
Read on for more tips on where you can look for hand-me-downs, and whether you should accept them.
SIDEBAR 1: Go online for hand-me-downs
If you don’t have relatives and friends to turn to for kids-related items, fret not. We’ve compiled some websites below where you can pass on or look out for pre-loved items such as baby walkers, car seats, diaper bags, water bottles, air-purifiers, foldable cots and even milk-related products or vouchers.
Singapore Freecycle (groups.yahoo.com/group/sgFreecycle)
What: The Freecycle Network aims to reduce waste by connecting people who are throwing away stuff with those who need them. There is a Singapore chapter, which also lends a platform for Singaporeans to list what they no longer need.
What we love: That the website works based on an honour system. This means the condition of items should be stated truthfully in the listings. If the moderators notice anything wrong with the postings, they have the right to unsubscribe members. So chances are that the baby walker you’re eyeing is still in a great condition.
SingaporeMotherhood Forum (singaporemotherhood.com)
What: Part of a parenting website, this forum allows registered members to list items that they are either hoping to pass on or looking for.
What we love: That the “Marketplace & Exchange Corner” is neatly segmented. So if you want to pass on items or look for hand-me-downs, you simply head to the “Free Items Only” section. Besides the free items that are listed, there are also forums that organise bulk purchases. This means that even if you have to buy kids-related stuff, you’re more likely to be able to buy them cheaper.
MummySg Forum (mummysg.com)
What: Part of a parenting website, the forum allows their registered members to post up things to share or exchange.
What we love: That you can zoom in straight to the “Exchange and Free Gifts Corner”. There is also the “Want to Sell” section, where you can sell your items if you wish to.
What: A bartering website that allows members to swop unwanted items using YouSwop dollars (YS$), where YS$1 is equivalent to US$1 (S$1.30). Just zoom in on the “Baby & Kids” section.
What we love: That it allows you to exchange items with people not just in Singapore, but also around the world. The clean website interface also allows for fuss-free browsing.
SIDEBAR 2: Should you accept that pre-loved item?
We know you want to save money on baby items, but that does not mean you should accept hand-me-downs indiscriminately. So before you say yes and thank you, refer to the table below for things to look out for before accepting an item.
Item: Baby clothes
Things to look out for: Babies grow so fast that their clothes really aren’t worn very often. So it’s safe to assume that the clothes are still clean and in good condition. Just check that buttons have not fallen off, and that the zippers are working.
Item: Baby shoes
Things to look out for: Well, babies might not be on their feet all the time. And given their feet grow so fast, it is likely that the used pair of shoes that a fellow parent is offering has only been worn a few times. Just make sure the soles are in good condition.
Things to look out for: You should open it up to make sure that it is stable when standing.
Things to look out for: Do inspect the toy carefully before passing it to your child. Make sure that there are no small parts that could be a choking hazard, and that it’s not chipped or broken in any way.
Things to look out for: Cribs have to conform to safety standards, like being deep enough to accommodate your baby, and with properly-distanced bars to avoid trapping the baby. So you must ensure that the second-hand crib meets safety standards.
Things to look out for: The stroller should not have any broken, loose or missing parts. You should attempt to push it down a street (without the baby in it!) to test if the ride is stable and safe.
Item: Car Seat
Things to look out for: Generally, car seats last about five years. So you might not want to accept one that is more than five-years-old.