The trickiest part of a kids' clothing exchange is the variety of sizes among all the kids. Second-toughest is making sure the clothing brought in isn't too worn out to last for another rough-and-tumble kid. You can solve both of these dilemmas by setting some clear parameters before the party happens.
With the invites, attach a short survey for the guests to fill out and return before the big day. Important questions to include are what sizes and genders of clothing are they planning on bringing as well as the total quantity of items. This will help to ensure that there is enough clothing per age group and gender for everyone in attendance to get some quality pieces.
Additionally, the survey should ask parents what sizes their kids are currently wearing. That will help you ensure there will be the right size of clothing for every parent to exchange. Some basic rules should also be included as to what qualifies as acceptable pieces. Clothing should be less than 5 years old, with no rips or tears and minimal staining. The mantra for the event should be to give what you can and to only take what you love.
Once you have all the surveys back, double-check to make sure that the sizes of the clothes needed and the clothes being donated match up. For example, if a parent is bringing size 4 girls' items and needs size 5 girls' items, make sure another parent is bringing some size 5 girls' items while a third brings size 4 girls' items.
Of course, the problem remains that the oldest siblings among all the invited guests won't have anyone larger to exchange clothes with. To handle this issue, ask all parents attending the event to contribute a small sum toward gift cards for the oldest/biggest kids. Sidestep the new-clothes controversy by purchasing the gift cards at a local clothing-exchange store or a thrift store.
Every successful event needs refreshments, and most kids expect take-home favors at parties — but don't blow the money saved through the clothing exchange on an expensive spread or a multitude of door prizes.
Go with generic sodas and bottled juices for your beverage options. Given the amount of people you're inviting, hosting it potluck style could be both fun and money saving. Depending on the time of day, you might be able to get away with just finger foods and appetizers.
Party favors go a long way toward pacifying those kids who yearn for brand-new school clothes. Hit your local dollar store to purchase inexpensive school supplies that are both fun and useful, such as colorful folders, pencils and novelty erasers.
If you've planned properly, you'll have several kids needing and several parents donating each of the clothing sizes represented at the party. Keep kids from fighting over the clothes they want by devising a playground-style selection system.
Have the kids in each clothing-size group pull a number out of a hat. Follow the order forward for the first round, meaning that the child with the number 1 selects first, and so on. For round two, reverse the order so the child with the highest number selects two items in a row and the child with the number 1 selects last.
Or, if you are hosting for a younger crowd, plan the swap on the weekend when Dad can watch the kids or after bedtime so parents can select clothing in peace and have the opportunity to socialize with other adults.
The best choice when it comes to the leftover clothes is to donate them to a local charity. Donating the leftovers further articulates to the children in attendance the importance of sharing and giving back to our community. There are many thrift stores and back-to-school clothing drives that would greatly benefit from a donation.
For some more pointers, check out Frugal Mama, who offers some great insight into her first experience with a professional clothing swap!