With the annual march down the toy aisle about to begin, it’s time to think about the kinds of gifts we are about to purchase for children, and the messages some of those gifts send.
The Worst Toy list of 2007, issued by W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm) includes a special additional warning about Aqua Dots, a craft kits that retails for $17-$30 dollars but which has toxic components that if swallowed can induced serious illness and coma. Four million sets of Aqua Dots were recalled on November 7. The “dangerous toy” list includes the following items:
- Go Diego Go Rescue Boat (excessive lead content; no warning label)
- Sticky Stones (magnetic stones are a choking hazard but also can cause internal digestive track blockage; if more than one is swallowed, the can stick together internally and do serious damage
- Jack Sparrow’s Spinning Dagger (choking hazards and potential for eye injuries)
- Dora the Explorer Lamp looks a toy to small children but is an actual electrical fixture
- Lil GiddyupHorse is being marketing for babies but contains a warning that the item is not for children under 18 months
- Spiderman III New Goblin Sword has the potential for impact injuries
- Hip Hoppa is a footboard atop of a large bouncing ball, hard to balance and hang to with potential for serious falls
- Bloonie’s Party Pack is a mix of a blowpipe and plastic gummy substance to make balls and bubble. It is flammable. That says it all.
- My Little Baby Born has small detachable parts that pose a choking hazard
- Rubber Band Shooter comes with a warning not to aim at people. Are kids going to read that warning?
Take it easy on the electronics; apart from ridiculous high prices that set an unrealistic economic standard for many families, many of the most popular games have unacceptable levels of violence, vulgarity and sexual content. If you are going to buy, know what you are buying and bringing into your home.
Remember, when buying toys, to consider the age of the child — very young children like to taste everything, which makes small buttons, marbles, and any tiny object a potential choking or toxic issue if consumed. Older siblings may be just fine with such toys but toys migrate, and in a multi-age household, toys will migrate down to the youngest child.
Don’t Buy War Toys….
Weaponry of all kinds are perennially popular with youngsters, but before buying a war toy or any toy, consider the message you want to give your child and consider alternatives to the media-hyped and movie-linked toys. At a time when life seems to run in hyperdrive, it may time to kickback and relax with some old-fashioned games, toys and activities.
- Board Games: From Monopoly to Life, Mancala to Checkers/Chess, Yatzhee and Uno, to Trivia and other Q&A games that ask questions that require thoughtful answers, these games can replace TV for an evening as groups of youngsters huddle on the bedroom floor or entire families gather around the table to play. Create a game night for your family.
- Fischer-Price play sets are perennial favorites with the youngest on the your list. Individual toys and game or play sets abound, with bright colors that foster a sense of play.
- Playschool toys and characters include the wonderful wobbling Weebles and a variety of settings to place them in. My child, and now my grandchildren, still remember the “toy shelf” of Playschool paraphernalia.
- Legos have become far more sophisticated in volume and potential for building, but these simple building blocks never seem to lose their appeal.
- Lincolns Logs have been around for almost 100 years, with expanded building sets. The beauty of Lincoln Logs (and Legos) is that the can provide hours of solitary fun and even more hours of family fun with designs only limited by the imagination.
- Books. There is nothing better for quiet time between parent and child than reading a book together. At a time when TV and video games exert such influence, take your child for a walk through your local bookstore and let them explore. Take notes though, and but the books that interest them. Get them reading; it will last a lifetime. From a first book of rhymes to the Dr. Seuss books to the Harry Potter collection, and a wealth of material in between, there’s a choice for every child.
- Active toys. Bikes for warm weather states, sleds and skates or skis for snowy states. safety equipment for active toys (i.e. knee pads, shin guards, bike helmets or riding gloves). Soccer balls and any kind of sports equipment is a great gift that keeps youngsters active and energized.