Picking safe and age-appropriate toys for your kids

General toy safety tips

    • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires labeling on toys that will be used by children between the ages of 3 and 6. Always verify manufacturers minimum and recommended age on the toy package label.
    • Beyond the age rating, consider the physical and mental abilities of the child who will be playing with the toy. Nobody knows your child like you do.
    • Ensure that toys intended for older children are stored in a separate location than toys used by younger children.
    • Never give a child under 3 an item that can fit into the child’s mouth.
    • Discard any toys that show signs of damage that may effect the overall use of the toy; especially sharp edges, loose or frayed wires, etc.
    • Ensure that toys are used in safe environments under an adult’s supervision. This particularly includes keeping toys stored away from the pool.
    • Toys that create sounds louder than 100 decibels have potential damage your child’s hearing. Avoid these loud toys.
    • Toys that fire projectiles have the potential to cause severe eye damage. Never aim these toys towards a person.
    • Discard packaging before giving a toy to a child under 3.

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Further resources: Safety Standards – Toy Industry Association

Guide to toy safety

Are toys made in China safe for my child?

Lead, phthlates, BPA, PVC, toxic fumes- is your head spinning trying to figure out what toys are safe enough to give to your child?

According to USA Today, just shy of 80% of all toys in the US were made in China. Although this has many consumers worried, it’s probably not nearly as bad as you think. In 2015, the image many concerned parents might have of a dark, dirty factory full of toxic fumes is probably very far from the actual truth.

First of all, why are so many toys made in China? The answer, of course is cost. Although many US based toy manufacturers would love to make their toys in the US, it is not always feasible to do so and still have a competitive cost in stores. Many consumers are willing to pay a premium for toys with a “made in USA” label, but there is a limit; and with more major toy manufacturers producing overseas to pass savings on to the consumer, there are many lower cost options that put downward pressure on the price parents are willing to pay. The invention of the shipping container also allowed for goods to be moved internationally much more efficiently, since shippers no longer had to pay longshoreman to load and unload vessels. A job which once took scores of workers could be done by a crane operator and a few workers, who removed the container from a boat and attached it directly to a truck cab. This meant it was now cost effective to utilize cheaper labor and material cost in China, even if it meant that product must take a long overseas journey.

Are toys made in China safe?

Every (and let me say that again, EVERY) toy that is sold to consumers in the United States must meet the rigorous standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Furthermore, to ensure compliance and impartiality, the tests must be conducted by a third party testing laboratory that has no affiliation with either the manufacturer or their factory in China.

New testing and documentation requirements set forth by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, signed on August 14, 2008 by President George W. Bush, made regulations even more stringent. Although the act focuses on “children’s products”(defined as any consumer product designed or intended primarily for children 12 years of age or younger), it’s not just for toy manufacturers. Makers of apparel, shoes, personal care products, accessories and jewelry, home furnishings, bedding, electronics and video games, books, school supplies, educational materials and science kits are all included.

Here’s an example of how toy safety testing works:

Timmy’s Awesome Toy Co. operates in the United States. They have an office in Texas with employees who handle everything from design to sales to customer service. TATCo works with a factory in China. They do not own the factory or employ it’s workers (although they do own the designs for the toys that are made there, and the molds that are used to produce the toys). They have strict quality assurance guidelines that they set forward for their factory to follow, in addition to governmental regulations that the factory must follow in regards to working conditions, age and hours of the workers, cleanliness, security, etc. Beyond this, TATCo. and is required by law to send representative samples of toy products made in the factory to a 3rd party testing laboratory before they will ever be allowed to be sold in the US. These samples will undergo rigorous testing that include testing for flammability, lead, phthalate and BPA content, choking hazards, and much more. If TATCo intends to sell their toys in other countries besides the US, they may choose to test for EN71 (European standards) AS/NZS (Australian standards) or others at the same time. If they pass testing, only then are toys are then shipped from China to the USA. At the American port, the goods may be randomly searched by customs officials to ensure that the container actually contains what it says it does, and then they are sent to TATCo’s warehouse. TATCo may do their own QA at this time. Now, TATCo decides to wholesale their product to a major retailer, Bullseye Stores. Bullseye will require verified copies of all applicable test reports for the product they are selling to consumers. If Bullseye is a particularly large corporation, they may even have their own additional standards that require more testing above and beyond the CPSIA required testing.

Guide to toy safety

What all this means is that a toy that reaches the hands of your child has been vigorously tested for safety before it ever reaches a retailer’s shelf (or website). And it’s serious. Violators are subject to increased fines and even jail time for some violations.

Yes, sometimes a product can slip through, and there will be a recall (these can be found here). However, are U.S.-made toys any less susceptible? Made in America toys are subject to approximately 10% of CPSC recalls; equivalent to their 10% market share. Chinese made toys accounted for 70% of the recalls, which means that China had a lower percentage of recalls than its 80% market share. Furthermore, 76% of recalls were attributable to design flaws (the fault of the USA company), and only 10% because of manufacturing problems on the factory’s side. Generally speaking, however, recalls are relatively uncommon, and the information is publicly available and distributed to consumers when it is necessary.

The takeaway: US safety inspections and standards are strict. You can be assured that products that are designed for kids, regardless of their origin, have been thoroughly tested for safety before they will ever reach the hands of a child.

For CPSC safety guides click here.

Of course, you can still check out: Best Toys Made in The USA

 

Thanks for reading!

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