Canada is a very safe place to live and raise children. And it keeps getting safer and safer. Statistically there are not as many drunk drivers anymore, and hardly anyone I know smokes nowadays. But that trend toward safety isn’t happening in kid’s toys.
Buying toys comes with a lot of choices. There are so many considerations to make when purchasing play toys, especially those cheaper items that have been made and imported from all over the world. International companies have different assembly systems, lean manufacturing standards, distribution and marketing practices. When a kid’s toy in Chapters or Toys-R-Us carries a major label they are quick to respond to phone messages, emails and even tweets. But its much harder to hold a foreign company accountable, and many East Asian manufacturing centers won’t make any changes to their products until a scandalous incident blows up interest in mainstream media and there’s a ‘recall’ as happened when children became sick from lead poisoning from paint on toys. African, Asian and South American companies, including Mexican companies are not on twitter yet.
We need to be especially careful with the toys issued to children under eight years of age. Children in this developmental stage put things in their mouths all the time, and come in close contact with such items. There can be toxic side effects that alter the developmental progress of your child and effect their health. Often fancy toys are not always necessary for children under age eight, because they’d rather play with real life items. Plastics should be checked first before handed over to a young person. I know many people who have let their child have reign over the items in their kitchen due to their safety. Stainless steel kitchens are biologically safer and steel pots and pans make great drums, while popsicle molds and ice cube trays become wonderful xylophones. My family makes frozen treats to help us get through hot summer days and we play music. These items make for great interactive fun and are safe items for smaller children. They may be noisy and require clean up afterwards but they are a lot healthier for your child rather than the dollar store toy items you may think are harmless.
After a little research I found the The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) very helpful. It was founded in 1926 and is a good source for recommendations for purchasing toy items and considering the safety features for toys. It is the world’s largest organizations working on behalf of young children with nearly 80,000 members and a national network of more than 300 state and local Affiliates, and a growing global alliance of like-minded organizations.
Characteristics of Safe Toys
* well-made (with no shared parts or splinters and do not pinch)
* not painted, or painted with nontoxic, lead-free paint
* easily cleaned
Be sure to check the label, which should indicate the toy has been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories. In addition, when choosing toys for children under age 3, make sure there are no small parts or pieces that could become lodged in a child’s throat and cause suffocation. It’s important to remember that typical wear and tear can result in a once-safe toy becoming hazardous. Adults should check toys frequently to make sure they are in good repair. For a list of toys that have been recalled by manufacturers, visit the Toy Hazard Recalls page of the US Gov Consumer Product Safety Commission Website.
Older babies are movers – typically they go from rolling over and sitting to scooting, bouncing, creeping, pulling themselves up, and standing. They understand their own names and other common words, can identify body parts, find hidden objects, and put things in and out of containers. This is a great stage to allow exploration in the kitchen. Hide the sharp objects.
* Board books with simple illustrations or photographs of real objects
* Recordings with songs, rhymes, simple stories, and pictures
* Things to create with – wide non-toxic, washable markers, crayons, and large paper
* Things to pretend with – toy phones, dolls and doll beds, baby carriages and strollers, dress-up accessories (scarves, purses), puppets, stuffed toys, plastic animals, and plastic and wood “realistic” vehicles
* Things to build with – cardboard and wood blocks (can be smaller than those used by infants – 2 to 4 inches)
* Things for using their large and small muscles – puzzles, large pegboards, toys with parts that do things (dials, switches, knobs, lids), and large and small ball
* Things for solving problems – wood puzzles (with 4 to 12 pieces), blocks that snap together, objects to sort (by size, shape, color, smell) and things with hooks, buttons, buckles, and snaps
* Things for pretending and building – blocks, smaller (and sturdy) transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (kitchen sets, chairs, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets, and sand and water play toys
* CD and DVD players with a variety of music (of course, phonograph players and cassette recorders work too!)
* Things for using their large and small muscles – large and small balls for kicking and throwing, ride-on equipment (but probably not tricycles until children are 3), tunnels, low climbers with soft material underneath, and pounding and hammering toys
* Things for solving problems – puzzles (with 12 to 20+ pieces), blocks that snap together, collections and other smaller objects to sort by length, width, height, shape, color, smell, quantity, and other features – collections of plastic bottle caps, plastic bowls and lids, keys, shells, counting bears, small colored blocks
* Things for pretending and building – many blocks for building complex structures, transportation toys, construction sets, child-sized furniture (“apartment” sets, play food), dress-up clothes, dolls with accessories, puppets and simple puppet theaters, and sand and water play toys