5 ways to avoid dangerous toys
Are you killing your kids? If you read the news or this blog, apparently most of us are one bad purchase away from doing just that without knowing it. Whether it’s lead-contaminated paint or date-rape dots or collapsing toy shelves, toys – of all things – have become a source of serious concern for parents.
So what can a parent do? Try running through this simple checklist before buying a toy:
- Does the toy have batteries or moving parts? Batteries are toxic. Noise-producing toys stifle the imagination and annoy parents and other adults who have to listen to repetitive beeps and shrieks. Steer clear of electronic toys.
- Skip the plastics. As a general rule, plastic toys are made from plastic for one reason: cost containment. Plastic is a cheap material, and toy companies are already squeezed by licensing and manufacturing costs. Seeking out toys made from non-plastic materials (wood, in particular) is difficult. I have spent a long time in Toys R Us looking for non-plastic toys for our son. They are out there, though. Melissa & Doug toys are (for the most part) non-plastic toys that can be found at major retail stores.
- Think twice before buying a brand instead of a toy. Branding is the primary selling point for toys. If you don’t believe me, go to a toystore and tell me how many toys you can find which are NOT associated with a television show, a movie or a musical group. These toys are often created with the intention of reinforcing the child’s desire to buy more toys branded in the same way rather than creating an educational experience. Many of the branded toys are built cheap and fast in countries with questionable safety standards. Buying non-branded toys does not guarantee safety, but many of them are made with more care to compete with the Dora and Buzz Lightyear and Finding Nemo toys.
- Do your homework! Most of the recent recalls were from, frankly, cheap toys or toys of questionable quality. You can consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission or the U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) who maintain a website on toy safety.
- Keep it simple! You will often hear parents laughingly talk about how their children pass by all of the fancy beeping whirling toys to bang on a pot with a wooden spoon or throw a tennis ball endlessly. This is simple, straightforward advice: despite what you may think, your children don’t need a lot of fancy toys. Simple toys like building blocks and simple dolls and wooden cars are going to be the best for your child, both educationally and in terms of safety. They inspire imagination and creativity and at the same time are not usually made from toxic materials and do not contain poisonous batteries or small moving parts.
Just use common sense and avoid buying anything that your instincts tell you that you shouldn’t. Run through the list above, and remember: children can play with anything and have fun, but only YOU can determine what’s safe!
I don’t agree with everything Brip Blap says, but he makes some very good points. For example, we’ve found that most wooden toys (including Melissa & Doug, which he mentioned) just aren’t interesting enough for Alex. But I avoid all toys in the dollar section at Target, since the risk that something so cheap is contaminated seems so great. And, in fact, for the holidays, we’ve asked for Lego Duplo sets to encourage the imagination and creativity that come naturally to Alex already. – Cathy