Bad Toys, Bad Toys, Watcha Gonna Do? You're Gonna Read This, Is What You're Gonna Do
If I've asked it here once, I've asked it a thousand times: is nothing safe for our children anymore? One week it's toxic baby bottles, the next it's dangerous playgrounds, the next it's finger-amputating strollers, the next it's baby-killing cribs. And, always, the poisonous/choke-hazardous/child-harming toys.
Almost makes one want to flee to the hills and take one's chances with the child-eating bears.
But few of us are ever actually going to do that, really - flee to the hills, that is - and so we're left here, with our children and our fears for their safety, and there's no time when those fears are more acute than during the holidays, when if the sugar doesn't kill, the toys will.
I exaggerate, of course. Sort of.
Fears about toys are, really, nothing to laugh at. If the last few years of increasing awareness about toxic chemicals in plastics has taught us nothing else, it's that even the most innocuous-seeming toy can be dangerous. (As the LA Times is reporting this week, no fewer than six major retailers currently have toxic, lead-ridden toys on their shelves. I KNOW.) And that's before we even start worrying about batteries and sharp edges and choking hazards. As Consumer Reports Safety Blog points out, "millions upon millions of defective toys recalled in 2008 and 2007 due to lead hazards that can cause developmental problems, small magnets that can block or perforate intestines, and toxic chemicals that can put kids in comas. Consumers, as well as Consumers Union, lost confidence in the safety of toys in the marketplace."
So what's a worried mom to do?
Well, you can start by familiarizing yourself with current reports on toy safety. The US Public Interest Research Group publishes an annual toy safety report that outlines hazards to look out for and identifies problem toys. Their current report - Trouble In Toyland - is available online and as a smartphone-accessible site that can be consulted while you do your holiday shopping. And sites like the Mother Nature Network's parenting blog offer sensible tips for keeping safety in mind while also shopping green (as they rightly point out, a 'green' product isn't necessarily a safe one: green toys can have sharp edges, for example, or just be dangerous if they're age-inappropriate.) You can also consult reliable online shopping guides, like Cool Mom Picks (disclosure: I write for CMP. That, however, does not change the fact that it is awesome), where editors pay close attention to issues like toxicity and safety and eco-friendliness.
End of the day, though, it's worth keeping this in mind: although it seems that things are getting worse v.v. toy safety and other hazards to children, they're actually not. We're just more aware, and there's a way of looking at that that is empowering. We know better than our own parents did about the possible dangers lurking in all manner of products for children. Sure, maybe past generations of children played innocently with balls and knit dollies and wooden trains - but they were also exposed to lead paint on their wooden push-trains and choking-hazard button eyes on their dollies and whatever toxic sludge went into making bouncy balls. And, hello: WALKERS. Sure, we may be more afraid of more things, but we're also far, far more aware. And as Consumer Reports points out, that awareness leads to recalls and reports and consumer knowledge and that is all very, very good when it comes to ensuring our childrens' safety.
So try to keep your mind at ease and enjoy the holidays with all the sugar and toys and happy things that really should just make the holidays, you know, happy. And maybe stay away from bears.