Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thinking Thursdays: Life in plastic, ain't fantastic...

Toys have been in our local news recently for all the wrong reasons.  Firstly, there was the report that the US was slapping Daiso with a US$2 million fine for selling toys that were dangerous or lead-tainted... and even more alarming was the fact that the toys that were recalled in the States are still on the shelves here, with no move to take them off.  Then came the news about a spate of mass vomiting, due to children playing with a toy known as the "Extrusion Bean".  Tests revealed that the toy contained dibutyl phthalates (DBP) and diethylhexyl phthalates (DEHP), which were ingested when the kids didn't wash their hands before having their meal.  

All in all, it seems that our country's approach to toy safety is one of "fighting fire"... there are no strict regulations on the sale of toys, and toys are recalled, or taken off the shelf, only if they obviously cause a problem (like the Extrusion Bean), otherwise no action is taken (like in the case of Daiso).  So that basically leaves us, the parents, to ask this question: If our country cannot actively safeguard the health of our children, what can we, as parents do? 

Rather than whine about the lack of regulations, I guess some good guidelines parents (or anyone buying toys as gifts) could follow when choosing toys would be:

Even the Montessori method recommends wooden toys over plastic ones as they last longer and are more environmentally friendly.  Wood toys nowadays are better made, and don't have those sharp edges that you see in some poorly made plastic toys.  Also, they have a lower chance of containing toxins, unlike plastic, where a cocktail of chemicals like plasticizers (for example, phthalates).  

2. Look out for toys that conform to the specifications set by ASTM F963 or EN71:
These are the specifications that are set by American Society for Testing and Materials or for all toys sold in the European Union respectively, and cover aspects such as limiting the amount of toxic chemicals (eg. Lead) in toys.  Read the labels on the packaging and see if these terms are stated.

3. If you must get plastic toys, look out for those that are stated to be phthalate free.

If you're looking for good (and safe) toys, some great brands to check out would be:
1. Alex toys: Some of this brand's toys have won awards, and they have a fantastic range of bath toys!  Vivocity has a store selling the whole range, and you can find some of the toys at Mothercare outlets islandwide.  I particularly like the range of "Stickers for the tub", like the City range which has all sorts of buildings, trees and rooftops that can be stuck on the side of the bathtub or tiled wall when wet.  These come with a bag made of netting with suction hooks so that you can leave the stickers in there to dry after bathtime is over.  

2. Safari Ltd: This brand specializes in making realistic figurines, so if you're looking to collect a whole set of dinosaurs, this is it!  Their models are all hand-painted and pretty realistic looking, and they have "Toobs" which are theme sets containing 10 over miniatures.  Just recently, Junior J's grandparents got him the "Pets Toob" and the "Wild Toob", and he's been happily examining his mini lion and hippo... And the best thing is, all their models are phthalate free, and some sets are even lead free! 

Miniatures from the "Pets Toob".  I particularly like the terrapin! :)

3. Plan Toys: If you have more cash to splash and want to buy durable, classic wooden toys that can last through a few kids, check this brand out.  They have gorgeous designs, and you can get them at "The Better Toy Store" in Ngee Ann City (this shop also sells other brands of high quality wooden toys, but since most are imported from Europe, they can be pretty costly...).

4. Melissa and Doug: I like the wooden puzzles from this brand, and they are sold in "Toys R Us" stores islandwide.  I also like the "Kid-O" range of puzzles, however, I've yet to find them in Singapore...

5. Ikea: Yup, good old Ikea has pretty good wooden toys, and they meet both the ASTM F963 and EN71 specifications.  Check out their Lillabo train set and their Mula range, which includes the classic stacking rings...   Wooden toys at a fraction of the price compared to other imported versions!

PS: I've been so busy that this post took 3 days to write!  Whoops!  Have a great weekend! :)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the infor about toys. We love Brio toys which can be found at the Better Toy store but they are extremely expensive.



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