Holiday Toys: How Can You Tell the Good From the Bad?

Each year hundreds of new toys appear on store shelves. Even grocery stores are selling toys. You want to make your child’s toy dreams come true, but how can you tell the good toys from the bad? These toy shopping tips will help you to make your way through crowded stores and the holidays.EXAMINE A SAMPLE TOY. Stores may have a mountain-sized toy display, including pictures of the toy and its price, but not a sample toy you can examine. In most states retailers are required by law to display an actual sample. Ask to see a sample if none is available.IS IT REALLY A TOY? Obvious as this question sounds, many of today’s toys are passive and don’t require anything from kids. A good toy asks a child do do something, such as buildng a block fort or putting a puzzle together. Toys like these stretch your child’s intelligence and imagination. Buy toys that are really toys!CHOOSE AGE APPROPRIATE TOYS. Most manufacturers print the age range of the toy on the box. Choose toys that fit your child’s age, physical development, and interests. Basic toys, such as wooden blocks, are a wise purchase because they’ve already stood the test of time and can be passed down to younger kids.

READ THE FINE PRINT. The toy manufacturer may have put a warning on the product label. As the Carolinas HealthCare System notes on its Website, “If there’s a warning, there’s a reason.” So check every side of the package for a warning and heed it if you see it.CHECK MATERIALS. Some toys are made from unsafe materials. Recently The CBS Early Show Consumer Watch did a story called, “Choose Safe and Fun Toys.” According to the program, necklaces and zipper pulls have been recalled because of lead poisoning risks. And the Website “Kids Health for Parents” says fabric toys should be labeled “flame retardant” or “flame resistant.” Art materials should say “nontoxic somewhere on their packaging,” the Website adds.HAS THE TOY BEEN TESTED? Look carefully and you’ll see that some toy packages have the letters “ASTM” on them, which means the toy has met American Socety for Testing Materials and Standards. Toys that have been tested will be safer than toys that have not.SAFETY COMES FIRST. Never buy toys for infants and toddlers that have parts small enough to choke them. The store may have a “choke tube” tester you could use. Objects that fit in this tester are unsafe. As for older kids, be careful about buying electronic toys because some are so loud they will damage your child’s hearing. Also avoid electronic toys that can shock or burn. Always buy the safety equipment that goes with the toy, such as a bike helmet.THINK ABOUT STORAGE. Do you have room for this toy? Huge toys will just get in the way and block the room’s traffic pattern. Toys that have lots of small parts can be hard to store. If you choose a toy that has lots of small parts, buy a storage bin or box at the same time. By the way, cleaning up toys is your child’s responsibility, not yours.CHOOSE WELL MADE TOYS. There are hundreds of cheap toys on the market – toys that break in record time. Nothing disappoints a child more than a broken toy. Choose toys that are made from durable materials, have smooth edges, and sturdy connections.

Look for wooden toys because they seem to be disappearing in this age of plastic.ASK AN HONEST QUESTION. Before you buy a toy ask yourself, “Is this something my child wants or is it something I’ve always wanted?” Holiday toys are for kids and your joy comes from watching them open their gifts, playing with toys, and having you play with them.

Buying toys on the Internet is convenient, but it can also be risky, according to “Kids Health for Parents.” The Website says Internet retailers aren’t required to include information about choking hazards or the age level of the toys. It also says foreign toy manufactuers “aren’t even required to meet strict U.S. regulations.” So be careful about buying toys you haven’t seen.You may have purchased unsafe toys or come across them in stores. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission wants to know about these toys. To report an unsafe toy call 1-800-638-2772 or email a report to You may also report unsafe toys on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Website, Internet services are available day and night.Copyright 2005 by Harriet Hodgson