Tips for Making this Toy-Giving Season Happy and Safe
Joan Lawrence, a.k.a. the “Toy Safety Mom,” is a lifelong child safety advocate with more than 20 years of experience in the toy industry. As the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) Senior Vice President of Safety Standards and Regulatory Affairs, Joan manages TIA’s product safety programs, including the development of safety standards and efforts to educate families about toy safety. Joan is also TIA’s primary toy safety spokesperson and regularly gives advice on toy safety issues in major broadcast and print media. Joan is the daughter of a prominent pediatrician and herself a mother of three.
- Follow the age guidance and other safety information and choose a toy that matches a child’s interests.
- Avoid toys with small parts when shopping for children under age three and children who like to put things in their mouth. Also, avoid toys with sharp points or rough edges, especially for younger children.
Buying the “perfect” toy for a child can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Joan Lawrence, the Toy Industry Association’s “Toy Safety Mom,” offers up some tips on how to pick safe, age-appropriate toys that will capture kids’ interest and help them learn and grow.
It’s hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner. It’s such an exciting time when friends and family come together to celebrate and of course, exchange gifts. Nothing is more priceless than the look on a child’s face when he or she opens up a gift on Christmas morning.
Shopping for toys should be an enjoyable experience. After all, everyone loves playing with toys and as the tools of play, the toys we give our children help to promote their physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. At holiday time, many people are often faced with a list of children to buy for, all of different ages and with different interests. The pressure to find a safe, age-appropriate toy the kids on your list will like can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be! I’ve compiled a few tips to help you confidently give each child on your list a toy they will love.
The first thing to know is that all toys sold in the U.S. are subject to strict mandatory safety standards. Before a toy makes its way to a retail store, it’s required to have been tested and certified as compliant with more than 100 safety standards and tests. It doesn’t matter if a toy is manufactured in Asia, Europe, in the U.S. or anywhere else — to be sold here, every toy (regardless of where it was made) must meet our country’s strict safety requirements and be certified for safety by an independent, federally approved toy-testing lab.
So when you’re shopping, you can relax; the key to your success is being able to identify the best toy for a child’s age and developmental level. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Follow the age guidance and other safety information on toy packaging.
The age grading isn't about how smart a child is — it’s safety guidance based on the developmental skills and abilities of children at a given age, and the specific features of the toy.
- Choose a toy that matches a child’s age and interests.
If a toy is too advanced, the child will become frustrated, and if it’s too simple, they’ll get bored. If you don’t know the interests of the child you are buying a gift for, a chat with their parents may help.
- Shop at a retailer you know and trust.
Look for established businesses. Store staff will usually be knowledgeable about age-appropriate toys, and when you're shopping online, that information will likely be included in the product description or elsewhere on the site. In the event of a product recall, retailers will remove those toys from their shelves and online offerings — the same can’t be said for a garage sales, secondhand stores, or retailers that don’t allow returns.
“Before a toy makes its way to a retail store, it’s required to have been tested and certified as compliant with more than 100 safety standards and tests.”
- Avoid toys with small parts when shopping for children under age three and children who like to put things in their mouth.
Keep toys made for older kids away from younger children.
- Check to see that plush (stuffed) toys have age-appropriate features.
Make sure they have embroidered or well-secured eyes and noses for younger children and seams that are reinforced to withstand an older child’s play.
- Avoid toys with sharp points or rough edges, especially for younger children.
- And finally, remember to have fun!
Get on the floor and play with the kids during the holidays. Demonstrating the correct way to use a toy or game is the best way to make sure they understand how to properly and safely enjoy it.
For more toy safety information visit www.PlaySafe.org.