Got Kids on Your Gift List? – National Consumers League

by Sally Greenberg, NCL

Managing our long lists of gifts and recipients each holiday season is stressful enough, even without the added anxiety over safety issues. With all of the bad publicity that toys have gotten over the past six months – with excessive levels of lead paint in trains imported from China, magnets that would be deadly if swallowed by young children, and a bizarre chemical found in the coating of some toys – shopping for kids is more complicated this holiday season than ever.

The good news is that with all the attention to toy safety issues, useful advice for avoiding hazards is easy to find so if you are shopping for holiday presents for the kiddies, don’t despair. Here are some tips NCL is offering this holiday shopping season:

Relax. Remember that any toy that has been recalled should be off the shelves and not available for purchase. As a result, the risk of buying a toy with lead paint is greatly reduced this holiday season. In addition, retailers are testing toys themselves in far greater numbers than ever before. They claim toy selections have never been safer.

Want to avoid Chinese toys altogether? It should be easier this year, as retailers say they’re offering alternatives. ToysRUs, for example, claims to carry more products from more countries than anyone and its clerks should have lists of toys made in countries other than China to help customers find what they want.

Watch the age-ratings on products. A product that is safe for a 6-year-old might not be safe for a toddler.

Go for safer toys. Some categories are less prone to safety concerns like lead paint or magnets. These include learning toys, board games, and the newer interactive plush toys.

Watch out for small parts. Toys for children younger than 3 are banned from containing small parts, and toys for 3- to 6-year-olds that have small parts are required by federal law to carry a warning label. Sometimes those labels are absent or hard to read because of small print or unclear descriptions of the hazard, so take a close look at the product itself to ensure the toy doesn’t have dangerous small parts if you are buying it for a kid under 6.