Posts tagged: Toy Recommendations

Auf Wiedersehen Selecta ( … Good-Bye Hand-Crafted Toys?)

By , December 9, 2008 9:34 pm

Are bootleg toys in your future? Don’t laugh. Read on…

It was a sad moment yesterday when I learned via an email from Quiet Hours Toys (a favorite Unplugged Toystore) that one of my very favorite toy manufacturers, German company Selecta, will be leaving the U.S. market as of December 31, 2008.

The new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, passed in August 2008, prohibits phthalates and lead in toys sold in the U.S., mandates third-party testing and certification for all toys, and requires toy makers to permanently label each toy with a date and batch number.

Sounds great, especially the lead and phthalate part, but there are a few unintended consequences of this broadly-painted solution:

– A toymaker, for example, who makes wooden cars in his garage in Maine to supplement his income cannot afford the $4,000 fee per toy that testing labs are charging to assure compliance with the CPSIA.
– A work-at-home mom in Minnesota who makes dolls to sell at craft fairs must choose either to violate the law or cease operations.
– A small toy retailer in Vermont who imports wooden toys from Europe, which has long had stringent toy safety standards, must now pay for testing on every toy they import.
– And even the handful of larger toy makers who still employ workers in the United States face increased costs to comply with the CPSIA, even though American-made toys had nothing to do with the toy safety problems of 2007.

–  Handmade Toy Alliance

Selecta is the first quality-toy casualty of the new law. Selecta has decided to withdraw from the U.S. market. It’s toys comply with European EN71 and ASTM standards, but meeting the new CPSIA standards would require a cost increase of at least 50%, thus pricing the toys out of the market:

Among the higher costs Selecta said were associated with meeting the CPSIA’s new guidelines were those related to testing procedures for products shipped to the U.S. that are “different than the testing procedures required for the rest of the world, resulting in separate testing for each product destined for the USA”; new shipment labeling regulations that “significantly increases the labor associated with shipping”; and product liability insurance increases “due to changing regulations and their varied interpretations.

Selecta Exits U.S. Market Over Cost Concerns – Toy industry news: playthings.com

I leave you with an interesting summary of the situation from the email I received:

What this means is small, innovative companies that typically make niche products, will be forced out of business, or forced to narrow their product range and sell to the mass market.  Product availability and selection will diminish.  We will be primarily left with imported plastic toys from China.  Yes, quite ironic isn’t it.

Yes, it is ironic.

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What can you do?  The Handmade Toy Alliance offers some useful suggestions and contact links:

Please write to your United States Congress Person and Senator to request changes in the CPSIA to save handmade toys.  Use our sample letter or write your own.  You can find your Congress Person here and Senator here.

Also (from the email):

URGENT Action:
The Subcommitte that put this law together is meeting to review its implementation on Wednesday.  We need to send a message to them to revise the law or its implementation in ways that will maintain the integrity of the safety standards, but will not decimate the children’s natural products market.  Here are the details of the meeting:

The Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing on Wednesday, December 10, 2008, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.  The hearing is entitled “Implementation of the CPSIA:  Urgent Questions about Application Dates, Testing and Certification, and Protecting Children.”  This is an oversight hearing examining implementation of Public Law 110-314 (H.R. 4040, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)).  Witnesses will be by invitation only.
The staff briefing for this hearing will be held on Monday, December 8, 2008, at 4:00 p.m. in room 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.

Here is a link to the list of Committee Members.  Please contact your Representative of Congress. If any one of these Representatives on the Subcommittee is YOUR representative, PLEASE be sure to call & email them to voice your concerns about the provisions in the law as they affect you and the children’s products industry in general.  Please do this as soon as you are able.

Here is a link to some suggestions for talking to our representatives from WAHM Solutions.

What else can you do?  Pass this on in your e-newsletters, in your stores, among your friends.  There is much disinformation in the market, and it is up to us to warn consumers and colleagues of the pending disappearance of the natural & specialty toys we have come to rely on in the recent years.

This is a critical time to raise our voices and be heard.  Important issues that affect us will be discussed in a public way next week…NOT after Christmas.

What else can you do?  Join the Handmade Toy Alliance, join the online community cpsia-central and become informed & involved.  Contact the media, discuss this in forums and in your own online communities.  It isn’t just small businesses that are at risk, it is the very nature of the toys & products our children & grandchildren will have access to in the future.

I really dislike alarmist statements, but it does seem that a revision of the new CPSIA regulation is essential otherwise there will be no more Unplugged Toystores, no more Etsy toy shops, no more lovely, unique, and creative toys.  Made in China plastic junk might well become the only choice here in the United States.

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More information:

From the CPSC – Information on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Text of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (H.R. 4040)

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Layered Life-Cycle Puzzles (Recommended Toy)

By , March 18, 2008 9:03 pm

Since my 2 year-old is obsessed with puzzles at the moment, I am always on the look-out for fun, educational, high quality puzzles that she might be able to do. A recent surfing expedition revealed these totally cool layered, life-cycle puzzles. They are made of wood and feature five separate puzzle pictures to complete. The mini-puzzles fit on top of one another in layers to show the life cycle of a butterfly (or frog, or duck).

The recommended age is 4 and up. As much as I’d like to claim that my genius 2 year-old could do these, she probably could not without assistance.  The big photo makes it look deceptively easy, but there are actually thirty pieces, five puzzles, and five layers.  Her older brother and sister might enjoy them though. Hmm…we’ll see. (It’s times like this that I really wish I homeschooled so that I’d have an excuse to buy these slightly pricey but really amazing-looking puzzles!)

These Beleduc puzzles are made in China of birch wood and meet or exceed “Specifications of European (EN-71) and American (ASTM) Toy Safety Standards:”

This butterfly puzzle is also made of wood, but the description offers less information (it costs less too):

Fun Wooden Math Game (Toy Recommendation)

By , February 26, 2008 5:58 pm

Santa gave the 4 Way Countdown Wooden Game to my 7 year-old daughter because he was hoping it might be a fun way to work on memorizing math facts.

The board consists of a simple square wooden box. Each side has ten wooden numbered bars that flip up and down. The object of the game is to be the first to flip up all your numbers. Players take turns rolling two dice. They can add, subtract, multiply, or divide the two numbers appearing on the dice in order to equal a number on one of their bars. They then flip up that bar. To make things a little more interesting, if you roll and eleven, you can of course flip up the 1 (6-5=1) or, instead, make another player flip all their bars back down. Fun, but beware: if you roll a twelve, then you must flip down all your bars!

This makes for a surprisingly entertaining game. What I like best about the game is how it can grow with your child’s abilities. Younger children can play by simply adding and subtracting. Multiplication and division can be added later as math skills progress.

I must also mention that even I like playing this one. Since many games aimed at children are deadly boring for grownups, I am always excited to find one that is at least tolerable, at best fun.

So, did Santa pick wisely? Yes! This game makes basic math facts easier to memorize and is way more fun than flash cards. Thank you Santa!

4 Way Countdown is also fairly practical as a travel game. The box is about 10.5″ x 10.5″ and 1.5″ thick, doesn’t weigh much, and the only loose pieces are the two dice. Dice are rolled inside the box, so are unlikely to escape during play.

Great math practice for 2 to 4 players (or you could even play alone). It would also be a great addition to a homeschool classroom.

PS. My daughter just saw me writing this post and wants to play 4 Way Countdown now.  I’ve got to go so we can get in a quick game before dinner!

Parents: Be Heard

By , February 19, 2008 8:34 am

If you would like an opportunity to let some big corporations know your concerns about their social and environmental impact, particularly with regards to your children, then head on over to Parents for Ethical Marketing (aka. Corporate Babysitter). Lisa has been contacted by a marketing agent who wants feedback from parents to pass along to her corporate clients. She has a few questions that she would like interested parents to answer.

Instead of all of us engaging in our usual collective grumble about unsafe toys, poor environmental practices, and the like, here is a chance to get productive and speak up!

Blokus (Toy Recommendation)

By , February 18, 2008 9:08 pm

This game may be very well-known, but I had never heard of it until I read this post over at Celtic Mommy’s blog.

I told myself at the time, that it seemed like a fun game, even if only for the kids to play with in creative ways. Well for Christmas this year, I decided to buy it as a family present. What a fun game!

It says it is for ages 5 and up and my 5 year-old can certainly play it, in fact he often beats us all.

Players take turns placing different shaped plastic pieces on the grid (tokens are composed of squares stuck together and remind me of Tetris pieces). The winner is the one who succeeds in placing all his pieces, or who has the fewest number of squares remaining. The rules are very simple, in fact there really are only two major ones: 1) you must always place your piece so its corner touches the corner of one of your other pieces. 2) your pieces may only touch one another at a corner.

Easy to learn and play, but very complicated to master! A great family game night choice.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons and photographer Roy Levien Aldaron for this photo. View license information here.

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