Trying to Find Safe Toys for a Preschooler, Toddler, or Baby?
Me too! What are "safe toys"?
I am concerned for their safety. I still have flashes of my baby chewing on a Dollar Store plastic bracelet recently recalled for lead paint. AND, I don't want to deal with the trauma of taking away my children's favorite play things. My son was DEVESTATED when we had to send in several of his precious Thomas trains for replacements.
If you're like me and shopping for Christmas or birthdays, you look at the huge number of toys on the shelves at your local retailer and wonder which toys are safe and which will have to be thrown out or sent in for a replacement in 3 months. During the course of my shopping, I have been trying to do some research to determine what are safe toys and what toys are more at risk for being recalled.
Here is a complete list of recently recalled toys:
In looking through some of the information out there, I have found 3 important factors seem to determine a toy's safety.
1. Where a Toy is Made
This is possibly the most publicized aspect of a toy safety. We have all heard how products manufactured in China may not go through the same rigorous quality controls as here in the United States. Looking at the list of recalled toys, the majority (see chart below) were recalled due to lead paint hazards. Although avoiding toys made in China does not guarantee that you are buying safe toys for your kids, those made in China seem to have more of a risk of containing lead paint.
Most toy manufacturers don't make it easy to research where a toy is made. Looking online at the major toy retailers, I can't find information on where the toy is manufactured (unless it is MADE IN THE USA). After MANY online searches and several trips to major retailers, I have compiled a small list of the more mainstream toys made in the USA:
2. How a Toy is Made
Focusing on the quality of the toys you purchase rather than the quantity is one way to help ensure that your kids are playing with safe toys. According to an article on Parent Map,
"Toys made from natural materials are more likely to be safe, but are no guarantee of safety. Some wood is chemically dried and coated with toxic lacquer. Look for wooden toys dried naturally and coated with substances like beeswax and vegetable dyes. Fabric toys may contain toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde. Avoid toxins by seeking toys with the European Öko tex certification or similar assurances." (Schreiber, Nov. 2007)
One way to make sure that you know exactly how your preschooler's toys are made is to start your creative juices and create your own toys with your kids. My website has many ideas for fun, easy crafts, learning activities, and handmade toys. Using handmade toys and activities with your children allows you to control the materials and the quality.
3. Age Appropriateness
As we all know, most babies and some toddlers put EVERYTHING in to their mouths. To try to find baby safe toys, make sure that there are no small parts, pieces that could break off, or that toys are not coated in toxic substances (like lead paint).
Toys not appropriate for babies and toddlers always state "Not Intended for Children under 3 Years of Age". Retailer websites always list the recommended ages for toys. However, I also know many preschoolers and elementary age children with a tendency to put toys in their mouths. You know your child better than anyone. No matter what age is posted on the toy, always use your own judgment in determining safe toys for your child.
If all of this information is a little overwhelming, you're not alone. I certainly don't know what the answer is and I still don't know exactly which are "safe toys". Hopefully with the growing public concern over the safety of children's toys, manufacturers will begin to more closely watch the quality of their toys.
Until that happens, however, we as parents may have to flip our view of things- changing from looking for the lowest prices and latest trends to searching for well-made, longer lasting, and possibly more expensive toys for our children. It may be impossible to ensure that our children only play with safe toys, but we as parents do have some control. We can:
National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Guide to Good Toys: www.naeyc.org/journal/goodtoys.asp
US Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/toy.html