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Shop Safely For Toys, Amidst Growing Number Of Recalls

Nov 24, 2007
Dolls.
Trains.
Play sets.
Accessories.

It use to be that safety considerations associated with children's toys were limited to choking hazards. We're familiar with the warning, "Never give small toys to children under 3 years of age". Recently, though, there have been new problems that make us almost long for the days when a choking hazard was our only safety concern.

Companies that parents have relied upon for quality toys for years are now being tested, undergoing public scrutiny and issuing recalls on their products due to substandard and even hazardous production. Virtually every manufacturer is being questioned regarding the quality of the products they offer. With the holidays quickly approaching, what can parents do to find great products and gifts for their children that will capture their interest, but most importantly, are also safe for children to use?

First of all, check out any toy company or product with a click of the mouse by visiting The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website. The CPSC posts their recalls on all products they have reviewed as soon as they are available. While recalled items are typically pulled from the stores as soon as the announcement is made, early shoppers need to pay close attention to recall announcements for toys they may already have purchased.

Next, invest some time researching your gift ideas. Many online toy companies are now linking to safety guides on their sites. They are adding toy safety guides for the product lines they carry, and are also contacting their vendors to ensure the products they are selling are safe and thoroughly tested. Whether you intend on shopping online or at a brick-and-mortar store, do your homework first and check out what other companies are saying about the toys you are considering. Look for products recommended by "toy authorities" such as Oppenheim and Dr. Toy. They closely review children's products and make recommendations according to their own standards. Their product selections are not immune to possible hazards, but it is infrequent that their choices are recalled.

Another suggestion is to change your overall shopping process. Look for smaller, more specialized stores that take the time to carefully screen each product that is offered. A smaller store tends to focus on fewer vendors, giving them greater control over the products that are sold. Check each vendor for a safety statement, indicating their commitment to providing quality, safe products to purchase. Buying name-brand items makes them easier to identify in a recall, rather than a generic version with no well-defined brand name. Keep receipts and/or model numbers for easy reference and returns, should a recall be issued.

Look for online sites and stores that sell products from reputable manufacturers. Many vendors and manufacturers will happily provide information regarding their product production to help allay any concerns that may arise in regards to quality. If manufacturer information is not available for a product, chances are it is not from a quality manufacturer. Take notice of manufacturer information on product packaging as well.

Many problems have been noted among toys manufactured in China, which has led to a common thought that all Chinese-made toys made present problems. The reality is that it is quite possible to manufacture quality toys in China, as long as the U.S. companies focus their efforts on production and quality assurance, and follow up with thorough testing of the end product. If anything good can come from the recent recalls, it may be that vendors are now becoming more aware of the need for quality control, and the responsibility they have in assuring the consumer that they are taking the necessary steps to provide the level of quality and safety that parents require.

Finally, as a caregiver or parent, please remember that all toys are potentially hazardous, depending upon how they are used by the child. Make sure to read the packaging and instructions. Production companies package products for children with age guidelines posted clearly on the label. These age specifications are provided for safety reasons and should be followed when buying toys and products for children. Toys with small parts should not be given to children under 3 (or any child who habitually puts objects in his or her mouth) to avoid a possible choking situation. Read any instructions or warnings that are included with the product to ensure proper use and care. Anyone who will be using the product should be made aware of the appropriate way to use it.

Children need adequate supervision to make sure they use toys and products appropriately. And, for those toys that are just too tempting to be used the way they are intended? Store them for a rainy day - next year.
About the Author
Judy Griscom is a preschool teacher and mother of two boys. She recommends that parents review WonderBrains' toy safety guide to find out more about toy quality and safety.
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