Two years ago, I bought the book "Too Many Toys" by David Shannon, thinking it would be a good way to start a dialogue on giving away toys that aren't played with anymore. Wrong. I thought we had too many toys then. Wrong again. That was two year ago, Darling 2 was just a few weeks old. He had not even begun to add his own toys to the stash. Now, here we are, two year later, still with too many toys! (Please note this is exclusively the opinion of the parent in this case)
The premise of the book is that the boy, Spencer, has too many toys. Yes, I 'm sure you got that part already, but there's more. He gets toys from everyone, from grandparents to the dentist. Spencer never gets rid of any of them. That is, until one day when his mom has absolutely had enough of stepping on the toys, and then it's much more difficult than she ever imagined because Spencer begins to negotiate what stays and what goes. It's a cute book, and I thought it was a good tool. And it was, but not in the way I had planned.
Darling 1 quickly caught on to what the story was really about and what I was trying to do. And even more quickly memorized the book, and still, after two years, uses Spencer's lines against me. His favorite, "but I LOVE ALLLLLLL my toys" (said with big, sad eyes and in a pleading, drawn out, pitiful voice). This scene is played out every time I ever say anything about all of their toys and how we should go through them to see if there are any toys we could get rid of.
How Many is Too Many?
The thing is, my Darlings do have too many toys, but they do play with them all. And as soon I think there is a toy that they haven't played with in a while, along comes one or the other and plays with that toy for 2 days straight. Mind you, I said, as soon as I think it. It's as if they can read my thoughts (well, actually sometimes I think they can, but that's another story). I have managed to smuggle a few things down to the basement and hide them away until they can be donated, etc.
They won't even get rid of the broken toys. Case in point, Buzz Lightyear, see photo from Monday's post. He is now headless, wingless, missing one hand, wrapped in masking tape and tied up with a yo-yo, but don't you dare for one intergalactic moment think he's headed for the trash. Oh no, Darling 1 is working on making him a new head and thinking of how to give him a new hand. He'll be as good as new very soon, or so I'm told.
Now don't get me wrong. I love to watch the Darlings construct elaborate storylines and play with the hundreds of stuffed animals, hordes of Little People and McDonald Happy Meal Movie Character toys, legions of cars, trucks and planes and every single Pixar character in their play room, um, I mean, my living room, but I have to draw the line somewhere. I just don't know where that line is yet.
The Dangers of Toys
What I do worry about is lead paint covered toys, tiny batteries, magnets and other small ingestible items. I try to watch for recalls and inspect our toys for loose pieces (or broken off heads and hands, etc.), chipping paint and other dangers. There have been so many toys recalled in the last several years. Many of the recalls were due to the level of lead in the paint used.
Fortunately, the U.S. has responded to these recalls and other issues by tightening the standards and has seen promising results.
Tips for Buying Safe Toys
Here are CPSC's Top Safe Shopping Tips for this year:
Magnets – For children under age six, avoid building sets with small magnets. If swallowed, serious injuries and/or death can occur.
Small Parts – For children younger than age three, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking.
Ride-on Toys – Riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates go fast and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be sized to fit.
Projectile Toys – Projectile toys such as air rockets, darts and sling shots are for older children. Improper use of these toys can result in serious eye injuries.
Chargers and Adapters – Charging batteries should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to children.
CPSC also recommends using the following tips to help choose appropriate toys for children:
Be a label reader. Look for toy labels that give age and safety recommendations and use that information as a guide.
Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly-secured eyes, noses and other potential small parts.
For all children under 8, avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.
Once the gifts are open:
Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys before they become dangerous play things.
Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings or neighbors.
Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any device to prevent overcharging.
Additional tips from CPSC:
To help keep what has been called the most wonderful time of the year happy and incident-free, CPSC is encouraging consumers to adopt a three-pronged safety approach."
Which Toy for Which Child – Always choose age appropriate toys.
Gear Up for Safety – Include safety gear whenever shopping for sports-related gifts or ride-on toys, including bicycles, skates, and scooters.
Location, Location, Location – Be aware of your child's surroundings during play. Young children should avoid playing with ride-on toys near automobile traffic, pools or ponds. They also should avoid playing in indoor areas associated with hazards such as kitchens and bathrooms and in rooms with corded window blinds.
- Check the CPSC's site for recalls: http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/category/toy.html
- Check The Toy Association's site for all kinds of toy information, from safety to top toys to recalls to parent discussions on playing and toys: http://www.toyassociation.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=TINFO_Home
- For Toy Standards from around the world and agency contact information , check the International Council of Toy Industries site: http://www.toy-icti.org/info/toysafetystandards.html
It's trite and often goes unheeded, but CPSC swears by its "small parts regulations" that have been in place for more than three decades. You know, the warning on toy packaging that cautions of small parts and gives the age the toy is inappropriate for. It's a simple warning, and I have to admit, I rarely look at those warnings on packages. However, I do check toys for small pieces and put those away for a time when the Darlings are older. It's difficult with two children of two very different ages on the development spectrum. At age 2, Darling 2 is still likely to "mouth" small objects.
So, be cautious, be vigilant and have fun shopping this holiday season. How do ensure your kids' toys are safe? Do you watch for recalls? Does it matter to you whether a toy is made in the U.S. or China or New Zealand or Timbuktu? I feel like it mattered more to me when the Darlings were babies. Now it seems like it's all about which toys they want – plastic, commercialized, made in China!
Check back tomorrow for the $40 Caribou Coffee Gift Card Giveaway! On Friday, I post a bit of Motherly Advice. Over and out…
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