Choosing Safe Toys For Your Children

Every time I hear that there is another toy recall, I think to myself – you have got to be kidding! How do these dangerous toys even get to the shelves and within reach of our curious children in the first place? Did the manufacturers realize that they were potentially harmful? Are there quality control measures to ensure this does not happen?

I personally know a sweet lady who is a mother of three little girls. When I was visiting with her one day, I noticed pictures of a little boy on the walls and asked who it was. She told me it was her son who had died at age three when a toy got stuck in his throat. His father had tried desperately to remove the lodged toy, but his attempts were fruitless, and the child succumbed. I was horrified and can only imagine how much they both suffered from this sad experience.

It is difficult to watch our children every minute, but we can make every attempt to remove any toys that could do harm from those that they play with every day. Your children also may receive toys as presents from well-meaning family members and friends for birthdays and holidays. How can you be sure that the toys you have in your home are safe for your children?

It is good to be aware of the CPSC US Consumer Product Safety Commission Homepage, which is where you can look to see if a particular toy has been recalled. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed so you will be able to see the latest recalls. If you know of any incident related to a toy injuring a child, you can also report it on this great site to help others.

Most recently the CPSC announced the recall of toy dark gun play sets that were sold at the Family Dollar Stores. Two children, aged 9 and 10 (both boys) put the soft darts into their mouths and accidentally inhaled them into their throats. Because of the suction cups, they were unable to get the darts removed and the children died of asphyxiation. Children of all ages can be harmed if they are not careful with toys.

Another suggestion is to pay attention to age recommendations on toys. They are put on the packages for a reason. You may think your child is old enough to play with a toy that is made for an older child, but toys with small or removable parts can cause injuries or asphyxiation. Some older children also still like to put things in their nose, ears and mouths, so you are the best judge to know what is appropriate for them.

If a toy is broken, it is best to throw it away immediately. Be aware of what is in your toy box. If tiny or broken pieces of toys are present, clean them out.

If your child receives a toy as a present or you have purchased one that they wanted, you should try hard to break it (do not do it in front of the child, however). If you can yank on the stuffed animals eyes and they are loose, they could come off and get lodged in the child’s throat. Try to think of ways in which your child may use it and test to see if the toy will fall apart. You can also test all toy gifts since they were not given with the intention to harm the child. It is better to be safe than sorry.

If you buy secondhand or garage sale toys, test them to see that they are safe for your child. It is ultimately up to the parents to check out the toys their children play with to ensure their safety.

Teaching your children the proper way to play with their toys will also educate them so they can play safely. It is not just enough to tell them not to point a toy dart gun at another child. It is also important to think of other ways that the toy may be harmful to them.

It is not only cheap toys that have been recalled, but recently there have been several well-known toy companies that have recalled toys. Just as an example, Step 2 recalled Buggy Toys because the pin that holds the handle on loosens and it detaches posing a danger to a child. These toys have been sold for over ten years and were made in the United States.

Another well-known toy maker, Gund, have recently recalled their Paperboard Baby Books because the styrofoam in the binding can detach and choke a child. These books were made in China and have been available since January 2009.

A company that makes wind chimes for babies recently recalled their Tiny Love Wind Chime product because a two-year-old baby punctured his cheek with a sharp rod that became exposed when he pulled the chime apart. These were also manufactured in China.

Another Step 2 toy that has been found to be a hazard is the Basic Rhythms Drums. The plastic clips that attach the drumsticks can break off and be a choking hazard.

Many parents may have these toys in their homes, but not be aware of the toy recalls. Parents purchase toys that are supposed to encourage development and positive growth in their children, either physically or mentally. It is best to study out the safety of toys beforehand to make sure you are investing in toys that will be safe for your children as well.

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How You Can Choose Safe Toys This Holiday Season?

As you search for the perfect toy to give to the little ones in your life this holiday season, you may be confused and even scared about some of the recent media attention on toy recalls and overseas manufacturing of toys, in general.

Some parents have even decided to look for other gift alternatives instead of buying toys. But is this really wise? Toys are intended not only to be a form of entertainment for children, but also a beneficial and vital part of their development. They provide a wonderful source of learning and entertainment for kids of all ages. Playing with creative toys enhances motor skills and provides a constructive way to release energy. By selecting quality toys from a company that researches their manufacturers thoroughly and regularly, you are giving a child an amazing way to foster creativity and stimulate intellectual development.

With this extreme attention on toy safety and product recalls in recent months, particularly on toys imported from China, it is crucial that consumers be informed and not misled. While it is true that over 80 percent of the toys sold in this country are imported from Chinese manufacturing plants, countries don’t make toys — companies do. It’s important to not view all toy companies as a singular entity.

It is a fact that big name toy companies like Mattel have had some products recalled due to safety issues, but it is imperative to set the record straight. Most toy recalls are due to design issues – such as small parts that come off and present a choking hazard and not for the use of unsafe materials. These design-types of recall issues have nothing to do with Chinese manufacturers and are, in fact, not a manufacturing issue at all.

Small toy companies are concerned about recall fears being attributed to all companies, instead of the specific companies affected. There are thousands of toy companies in the U.S., yet the weight of attention to recalls among the large toy companies such as Mattel and Hasbro bears heavy on small toy companies. A small toy company in Madison, WI had this to say on their blog regarding the Mattel toy recall:

“The Mattel recall is bad for the entire toy industry… Mattel’s failure to effectively oversee their suppliers darkens the public perception of all Chinese manufacturers. It’s unfortunate this negative perception extends to companies that actually enforce rigorous quality standards, factories whose products consistently pass safety and lead tests…”

American consumers should be aware that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) is also working very hard to ensure the safety of toys and other products imported from China. An International Consumer Product Safety Program known as the 2007 China Program Plan has been implemented. Responding to the problem of product recalls from China, the CPSC states, in part:

The Commission is exploring a variety of means to reduce the number of consumer products imported to the U.S. that pose a substantial product hazard, that violate mandatory product safety standards or that otherwise pose an unreasonable risk to American consumers. These efforts have included the creation of a new Office of International Programs; the development of the China Program; participating in product safety seminars; direct notification to manufacturers and to General Administration for Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) when a Chinese manufactured consumer product recall occurs; and stepped-up port and market surveillance to help keep defective or violative products out of the hands of consumers.

It is important to understand the impact of applicable U.S. standards, including ASTM-F963, which “relates to possible hazards that may not be recognized readily by the public and that may be encountered in the normal use for which a toy is intended or after reasonably foreseeable abuse. The standard covers requirements and contains test methods for toys intended for use by children under 14 years of age.” These standards are put in place as a voluntary way for the toy industry to police itself and protect the public.

A second way that the CPSC works with toy companies to provide safety information to consumers is with package labeling. Parents and others can help safeguard the children they are buying toys for by reading the labels and following the recommendations and warnings. Many issues in toy safety are directly related to consumer choices to purchase toys not intended for a particular age group. Most toys are given an age rating and a warning if there are specific reasons, such as small parts, if there are inappropriate for young children.

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Educational Toys And Children’s Books – A Must For Optimal Childhood Development

The brightly colored plastic mobile dangles lazily overhead in the infant’s crib. The baby coos as its tiny arms swing a rattle back and forth. In another room a pre-school youngster is busy assembling the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and upstairs a teen is conquering worlds on a computerized video game. What do all of these activities have in common? They are examples of children playing with educational toys.

It seems that a home with children is a home full of toys. Parents want children to have happy, healthy childhoods. Toys are a big part of growing up. But, with stores filled with toys and games many parents begin to question which of these toys are appropriate and which toys will help their children develop normally? These are good questions.

There is no doubt that toys are a normal part of childhood. Kids have played with toys of some kind for as long as there have been children. It is also quite true that toys play a significant role in the development of the child. The types of toys with which a child plays often have a strong influence on the child’s adult interests and behavior.

Play consumes a large portion of a child’s time each day. It is during this play that children learn some fundamental lessons not only about themselves, but also about other people and the world around them. It is through play they develop physically, mentally and emotionally. Play is essential to the child’s development.

Educational toys are tools of play designed to develop motor skills, cognitive powers and emotions. Other toys may simply be fun. Too often, the label ‘educational’ is attached to toys regardless whether or not the toy was actually designed to ‘teach’ the child a skill or ability. Sometimes the term is used as a marketing gimmick to command a higher price.

So, how does a parent know if a toy is actually an educational toy? The answer to that question is to understand what the toy is designed to teach or accomplish.

Children learn best when learning is fun. Children learn at a very early stage to do those things that they enjoy and to avoid activities that are not enjoyable. Nearly every parent wants to believe that his or her child is special, that they are developing mentally or physically at a faster pace than other children. There is often a temptation to overburden the child with toys that are beyond the child’s stage of development, or to concentrate on toys that stretch the child’s skills. The truth is that there must be a balance between cognitive development toys, skills-based toys and toys that are simply ‘fun’ or relatively effortless to use. Pushing a child too strenuously can be just as damaging to development as not providing sufficient stimulation.

The plastic mobile dangling above the crib is an important aid in helping the infant learn to first focus its vision and then to distinguish between shapes and colors. The rattle helps the baby learn to identify and determine the source of sounds. Shaking the rattle develops coordinated movement. Both the mobile and the rattle are educational toys. The mobile is a cognitive development toy and the rattle is a skill-based toy.

Examples of other cognitive development toys include jigsaw puzzles, word puzzles, flash cards, drawing sets, painting sets, modeling clay, chemistry and science lab sets, telescopes, microscopes, educational software, some computer games, some video games and children’s books. These toys are labeled with the age range of the child for which they are designed. These are the toys that teach children to identify, make choices and reason. Smart parents will make sure their child or children are given toys appropriate for their age range.

Skill-based toys include building blocks, tricycles, bicycles, bats, balls, sports equipment, Legos, erector sets, Lincoln logs, stuffed animals, dolls, crayons and finger paints. These toys teach children the relationships between different sizes and shapes and how to assemble, color and paint. All of these activities are important for developing fine motor skills and increasing physical abilities.

Child safety is an important consideration in the selection of skill-based toys. Toys inappropriate for the child’s age or development may create a safety hazard. For example, babies and toddlers should not have access to toys such as bow and arrow sets, BB guns, toys with sharp edges or corners, small parts or substances that may be swallowed or electrical toys.

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