December 4, 2007
While parents are worried about potentially dangerous toys this holiday season, retailers are just as worried that parents will bypass the toy aisle this year. Both concerns are very real.
I am very concerned about what toys to buy, says Linda Mata, who is buying toys for her grandchildren. You may buy them now, and then find out later that there is a recall after the children have already played with them.
Jolene Duckworth, a mother of two, is also being extra cautious this holiday season.
It is very important to know what types of toys are safe. The recent recalls due to lead have made me very worried about what to buy, she said.
While toys exceeding federal standards for lead content should be a concern, it should not be the only thing on parents minds while shopping this holiday season, says Sharon Swindell, M.D., a pediatrician at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital.
The fact of the matter is that although these toy exposures are a concern for children, the biggest risk of lead exposure is still in the homes of the United States, she says. Parents need to really look at the toy carefully and read the labeling for many other things too, including if it is age-appropriate for your child.
To help parents become smart toy shoppers, Swindell offers these five tips to pick the safest and most appropriate toys for kids this holiday season.
1. Dont worry, but be vigilant. The toy recalls have raised concerns about a number of features on imported toys. Check online for up-to-date recall information before heading out to the stores. Look for warnings about small parts, breaking, fire and choking hazards, as well as information about lead paint. Even made in the U.S.A. does not mean it is a safe toy, so make sure to check all labels and recalls, Swindell cautions.
2. Be cautious when shopping online. There are pros and cons to online shopping. While it may be more convenient, you are not able to hold the toy and examine it as effectively as you would in-person. If you prefer online shopping, Swindell recommends reading product reviews from multiple sources by other customers and independent panels to make sure the toy is safe.
3. Chose toys wisely to make your children wiser. Toys that promote healthy behavior or require children to use their imagination should always be top picks. Toys such as a new bike, a puppet or doll, a book, or anything that involves the active engagement of the childs mind are good ways to promote mental activity and healthy habits.
4. Inspect toys carefully and always read the labels. Toy testing is only done when the toy is intact, so even a safe toy can become dangerous. Broken toys must be thrown away. And before you purchase a toy, make sure it is well constructed. When pieces break off a toy, it can leave a sharp edge or cause a possible chocking hazard.
When selecting a toy, make sure it is age-appropriate. Age recommendations are made by independent review panels that look at the size of the parts, strangulation and choking hazards as well as the ability of children to use the toys according to their motor skills, Swindell said.
5. Research the toys on your little ones wish list. If your child has been dying for a toy all year and advertisements for it seem to be popping up everywhere, make sure to check it out before you buy. Look online for any recall information, product reviews by other customers and independent panels. If you find that the particular toy is just not right, look for other, similar options.
If it is something that the kids have seen on TV or in a movie, try to find another toy that has that same theme but is just right, Swindell said. For example, consider a puzzle from your childs favorite movie instead of a movie action figure that may include small pieces.
And, before you buy, be sure to consider these other toy-buying tips:
• Buying a bike, tricycle, scooter, or anything with wheels? Make sure to buy a helmet.
• Dont forget books they count as toys too.
• Organic toys are becoming more popular, but Swindell cautions that there is not yet a designated label that provides information about a toy being organic.
• Look for toys that are flame resistant, retardant or nonflammable.
• If the toy is battery-operated or requires recharging of any sort, have a parent do it. Serious burns and other injuries may result if not done properly.
• If you are buying a stuffed animal, doll or other toy that is filled, make sure the inside contents would not pose a choking hazard if the toy was ripped or broken. Avoid substances such as beans and pellets whenever possible.