How To Make Sure The Toys You Buy Are Safe
By Bradley M Hayes
There are some very strict safety regulations in the United States that attempt to insure the safety of toys that are sold. But even with the strict regulations there are occasions from time to time where unsafe toys make it into the market.
As a whole the regulations that are in place to ensure toy safety have been very successful. When compared to the number of toys that are sold on the market each year there have been very few incidents, which were caused by unsafe or defective toys. Most accidents are caused by improper usage or common accident such as tripping on them.
In the few cases where defective or unsafe toys have actually made it into the market they were recalled fairly quickly. But this is no reason for parents not let their guard down when buying toys.
Check The Label: Safety Labels Are A Must
The first thing that should be checked when buying a toy is whether or not is has the appropriate safety labels. The primary label in the United States would be that of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which signifies that, the toy meets the minimum safety standards.
The next important labels to look for when shopping for toys would be age labels. You should always follow age guidelines, as they are an essential part of toy safety.
Most toys have age labels, even if they are not legally required. Any toy that is not suitable for children under 36 months must have a visible label stating so.
Though, in general most toys give guidance as to what age group they are designed for. These guidelines let you know what age group will benefit the most from the toy, in terms of development, fun, and understanding. Here is a brief guide of different kinds of toys and what age group they are intended for:
Under three years
For this age group the greatest threat that toys pose is a choking hazard. Most everything a baby or toddler gets their hands on ends up in their mouth. For this reason, very small toys or toys with small parts are especially unsuitable. Be sure to keep marbles and small balls or buttons out of their reach; be careful with inflatable toys and balloons; and avoid toys with pointy or sharp edges.
Three to five years
Children of this age are full of discovery and are capable of playing with more sophisticated toys. However, you should still be cautious as certain toys could still pose a risk to them. Avoid toys made with thin plastic that might break and cause injury and still watch for small parts that they may still be tempted to put in their mouth.
Six to twelve years
By this age children will be able to safely play with almost any toy they are given. However, always read hazard warnings and instruction pamphlets for maintenance guides. For example, if you buy a trampoline you will need to carry out maintenance on it on a regular basis. If you buy a bike or skateboard for your child, you should also buy appropriate protective equipment. Always make sure you get the right size ride on toy for your child, so he/she can handle and enjoy what he/she is given.
Things can get a little complicated when you have children of varying ages. When you have lots of different toys that are suitable for varying ages you have to stay vigilant. For starters, you should teach older children to keep their toys out of reach of younger children, especially when they contain small parts and/or are breakable. It is also best if you do not put different age appropriate toys into one toy bin. Have a separate box for each child and make sure they do not swap out toys. To help keep organized, you should follow and separate based on the age labels on the toys.
In general it is a good idea to be organized and keep toys in order. Having toys lying around the house is a common cause of accidents. If you have children of varying ages, this can be dangerous and allow smaller children to get to toys not intended for their age group. Keep in mind that children are intended to play with the toys, but all maintenance, such as changing of batteries should be carried out by an adult.
Toy safety labels offer an important safeguard against dangerous toys reaching our children, but it is just as important to use your own common sense. Before purchasing a toy, examine it thoroughly yourself to make sure that it is sturdy and well constructed. Check for any sharp edges or pointy corners, especially when buying toys for younger children. For example, if you are buying a stuffed animal make sure all stitching is secure and small items like the eyes or nose will not come off easily.
If your child has an accident with a toy or you suspect a toy is potentially harmful, you should take immediate action. The first step is to take the toy out of the reach of all children. Once the child is cared for and the immediate danger has passed, you should report the toy to the appropriate authorities. You will need to keep the toy safe for examination and you should also try to provide details of where and when you bought the toy. It is important to regularly check online for toy recalls. This way you can remove a potentially dangerous toy before any incident occurs.
Don't Throw Away! Recycle Children's Toys
So your child has outgrown his toys. There just doesn't seem to be enough space in his room for his birthday gift toys. How about the basement or attic? Is there space there to pack up and store his toys?
Rather than going the "hoarders" route or the "wasteful throw it away" path, how about trying the recycle option? Are you aware that there are children who would love to play with your child's discarded toys? Your child's old toys are another child's new toys! Of course, this article refers to your child's toys that are in good, playable condition, not broken. While these toys are used, they are also in a condition, which will allow them to be used again. I am not referring to broken toys, Trucks with two wheels missing, dolls with limbs missing, or puzzles with pieces missing do not qualify!
Once you identify that your child no longer plays with a particular toy, why not take advantage of this occasion to encourage your child to be generous by donating the toy to a good cause? You might be pleasantly surprised to find that your child will be more than willing to part with an outgrown toy, knowing that other little girls and boys would be delighted to receive the toy. Your child might actually come to you on his own and let you know of other toys he'd like to share with other children.
So, now that you have an outgrown toy (or better yet, a pile of outgrown toys!) where do you donate it/them?
Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Other Charity Stores
When you give to an organization like Goodwill or Salvation Army, you are almost giving twice! You not only get the satisfaction of knowing that your child's toy is going to be enjoyed by another child, but you also get the satisfaction of knowing that the charity employs people to run the organization.
Of course, the public library system is a great place for children to be exposed to books. But did you know that many libraries also have "toy check-outs"? These toy checkouts work the same way book checkouts work. And they are great, free ways for your child to experience new toys and puzzles. Donating your child's toy to your local library is great even if your library doesn't have a toy checkout. Your library probably has a children's section, which has a toy box of some sort.
A great way to recycle your child's unwanted toys is to donate them to the children's ward at your local hospital. When children are in the hospital for long or short stays, it's always nice for them to have access to new (to them!) toys.
Places like Boys Town or Ronald McDonald Houses are great recipients of used toys. Because of the many children who reside in these places, it seems like they could always be in need of more toys.
Your child might enjoy giving his unwanted toys to his school. Classes for Special Needs children are often in need of developmental toys that can be used to teach different skills. And with all the budget cuts that school districts are experiencing, recycled toys would be greatly appreciated!
Family Shelters and Battered Women's Shelters
Homeless shelters are very worthy recipient of toys. Children living in shelters are already feeling the anguish associated with not having a home of their own. Your child's unwanted toys could make a big difference to these children. Remember that your child's old toys will be new toys to other children!
High School and College Day Cares
A lot of high schools and colleges have day care drop-offs for parents who are students. Donating your child's unwanted toys to these day cares guarantees that your child's toys will either be used at the day care or given to a child in need of toys.
More and more organizations are having "White Elephant Sales" so that they can donate the proceeds to worthy charities. These rummages benefit organizations that need funding. What better place to donate your child's unwanted toys!
Local Pediatricians Office
It is not uncommon to go to a waiting room in a pediatrician's office and see bored children. Parents should always take books and small toys with them to their child's doctor's appointments, but the majority do not. Pediatrician's waiting rooms are yet another place that would benefit from your child's unwanted toys.
Perhaps your child has outgrown some of his toys and would like to save his money so that he can get a new toy or two. While this instance is not quite like donating/giving away the toy, it is a good time to teach your child the skills of saving and recycling. Rather than your child simply throwing away his unwanted toy, he can help sell his toys at a garage sale and then save up his money.
This article has (hopefully) given you some ideas of places you could recycle your child's gently used, unwanted toys. Remember that the toy may be old to its current owner, but to another boy or girl it will be a new toy. By recycling your child's toy, everyone wins. Your child can experience generosity, the new recipient will get hours of playing, and even the environment will benefit, as less toys will make their ways to landfills.
Choosing Educational Toys
How do you ensure that the educational toy you buy will be right for your child? As with everything there are no guarantees with children. There are a couple of things to consider when selecting children's educational toys that can improve the chances that your choice will be well received. First, evaluate the developmental stage that your child is at. Select educational toys that target skills and abilities for that stage. An educational toy that is too advanced may cause frustration, and one that is too simple will not be challenging enough to warrant attention. Below is a general guideline for what types of children's educational toys are better suited for developmental stages from newborn through 3 years old. This is only meant to be a guide to start you thinking in the right direction. Use these guidelines and your knowledge of your child's interests to you help make your educational toy purchases.
Newborn to 3 Months: Babies cannot do much at this stage but their senses are eager for stimulation. Children's educational toys with high-contrast patterns and bright colors will capture little ones' attention. Babies can see color from birth but have difficulty distinguishing between similar tones. Educational toys designed with bright and distinctly different colors like red, green, black and white help babies differentiate shapes and patterns. Babies spend a good deal of time on their backs and sides at this age making colorful mobiles that play music a great educational toy choice. Babies are fascinated by their reflection in safety mirrors. They are not able to recognize themselves but the activity is great visual stimulation. Baby gyms are excellent educational toys because of the variety of stimulation they offer. Baby gyms have bright colors, a variety of attachments with different shapes, textures, and sounds. Most gyms now play music and have lights as well. These educational toy gyms require baby to pull, kick, or bat something to set off the stimulus helping to develop motor skills.
Suggested toys for this age: Galt Paynest and Gym, Busy Bear Mirror, 2 in 1 Smart Gym, Farm Friends Mobile, Jumbo Gym, and Farm Linkies.
3 to 6 Months: During this stage your baby will gain better head control and have better movement of arms and legs. They generally grip onto anything they can get their hands on and put it directly into their mouth. Educational toys like rattles promote motor development and provide sensory stimulation. Since everything ends up in the mouth, educational toys that are chewable or soft plush are favorites. Babies need to experience different textures so vary the materials educational toys are made of. Activity centers provide lots of stimulation at this age. These educational toys normally have lots of buttons that produce sounds, lights, and give a variety of textures to explore. Hand-eye coordination will improve as babies explore the activity center. Parents are often on the move more with babies at this age. Activity bars that fit across a stroller, car seat, or bouncy chair that have dangling, squeaky toys and mirrors keep baby stimulated while on the move. Motor skills develop as baby reaches, hits, pulls, and kicks at the accessories on these educational toys.
Suggested toys for this age: Tummy Play Trainer, Curiosity Cube, Toe Time Infant Car Toy, Musical Arch 'N Play, Jungle Pals Pushchair Arch.
6 to 12 Months: Your baby has much better control over arm and leg movement. By 9 to 10 months, your baby should be able to move around by some means- either pulling, crawling, or scooting. By 12 months they should be able to stand by themselves and many will even start walking. Educational toys including wooden blocks that baby can stack and knock down, throw, or bang together to make noise are good choices. By 12 months, educational wooden blocks can be used for early construction play to promote development of motor skills, cause and effect, sensory and visual stimulation. Educational toys like the Sensory Ball from Edushape, provides great stimulation with different textures. Once babies learn to sit up, they will enjoy rolling a ball and trying to catch it as you roll it back. Letting your baby chase the ball will encourage movement. Trying to figure out why a square block won't go through a round opening will help develop problem solving skills- though it may cause some frustration in the beginning. By the time your baby is 12 months, they will start to enjoy stacking activities, though they will need help in trying to get the right order. More interest in books will be noticeable now. Try to buy books that have pages with different textures and simple flaps. This will help to develop their sense of touch.
Suggested toys for this age: Frog in the Box, Activity Cube, Farm Friends Stacker, Soft Books, Hug a Bug, Textured Blocks.
1 to 2 years: With each step your baby becomes more independent and confident. Little ones at this age spend every waking hour exploring and experimenting. For those still a bit unsteady walking, educational toys that promote mobility such as a walker or push car are great choices. Pushcarts and wagons are a great way for children to tote things around- another favorite activity at this age. Educational toys including soft plush toys and dolls remain favorites at this age. Children often become very attached to one or two and use them in creative play. Toddlers can find many ways to make loud sounds. Musical instruments like drums, maracas, and tambourines are educational toys that will help them learn to appreciate music while they make noise. Inset puzzles require toddlers to lift out pieces and find the right places to put them back. These first puzzles improve problem skills and fine tune motor skills. Puzzles are educational toys that your children will play with over and over again.
Suggested toys for this age: 4 in 1 Walker, Galt Wooden Baby Walker, Little Hands Music Band, Mini Edublocks, First Blocks, Baby Puzzles, Wooden Shaped Puzzles, First Puzzles.
2 to 3 Years: Your toddler's motor skills are now well developed. They can run, jump, and climb. The area of explosive development in this stage is speech and language. Imaginative play becomes the focus for this age group. Educational toys that children use as props in pretend play help build language and communication skills. Great educational toy choices for this age include character toys, puppets, dolls, toy vehicles, and animal figures. These educational toys foster creativity and imagination by allowing your child to create wonderful adventures, model adult behavior, and role-play. Large piece puzzles are great educational toys for this age. Children at this age should be able to complete a 4 to 6 piece puzzle on their own. Puzzles are a great activity to build hand-eye coordination, problem solving, and fine motor skills.
Suggested toys for this age: Table and Chairs, Wooden Stacking Train, Airport Blocks, Maggie's Friends, Shaped Puzzles, Play and Learn Puzzles.
The Importance of Play In a Child's Development
Playing is the most basic activity of childhood, and to parents it seems like such a simple task. Yet the importance of play to the manner in which your child develops cannot be underestimated. Play is important to your child's development in many ways, including socially, physically, and cognitively. Playtime is a chance to watch your child develop before your eyes.
What play teaches a child.
Even the earliest forms of play - the simple holding of a toy - begin the learning process through which children start to understand how the world works and their role in it. "It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles," explains Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg in a 2007 American Academy of Pediatrics report.
Through play, children develop better hand-eye coordination, start to understand the rules of cause and effect, and even start to develop a sense of socially acceptable behavior. Children who play together are learning to interact with each other successfully.
When children don't have time to play.
Today's children are experiencing much more pressure to perform academically at the expense of time spent at play. Even very young children have lives that are very highly scheduled and full of important learning activities. Certainly there is something to be said for organized activities and encouraging education, but free play should not be abandoned. Time spent in free play is important for children to develop imagination and explore the world around them.
Spending a lot of time on organized preschool activities along with the busy lives of parents and children alike sometimes means that children are missing out on the time off that they need to avoid struggles with feeling pressured. Although pushing your kids to succeed does have its benefits, "even children who are benefiting from this enrichment still need some free unscheduled time for creative growth, self-reflection, and decompression and would profit from the unique developmental benefits of child-driven play," explains Dr. Ginsburg.
Guidelines for parents.
In order to ensure that your children experience normal childhood development through play while still achieving the needed academic success, you need to find some balance. Here are a few simple guidelines to follow:
• Take a look at your schedule and make sure there is a balance between the scheduled activities and free play
• Promote time spent playing freely in the place of too much television
• Look for a preschool that incorporates free play into the day
• Encourage imaginative play through your choice of appropriate toys
Play is vital and normal, and every child needs a chance to spend time at free play to develop normally. Make sure your child can find the time to explore the world through play.
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