Sponsored Content: Toy Industry Association
The magic of play! Getting children to play is easy. Keeping them safe and accident-free takes education, awareness and care. The Toy Industry Association (TIA), celebrating its centenary this year, is committed to keeping children safe at play. In July 2015, TIA launched www.PlaySafe.org, a website dedicated to providing trusted toy and safe play resources for parents and caregivers.
“Continuing TIA’s long-standing commitment to toy safety education, PlaySafe.org is a content-rich destination designed to provide families with accurate information, news, and tips about safe and fun play,” said Steve Pasierb, TIA president and CEO.
The information found on the PlaySafe.org site has been vetted by TIA’s toy safety experts, who for decades have worked hard to ensure that kids’ playthings are safe.
TIA’s Joan Lawrence, SVP of standards and regulatory affairs, is featured prominently on the site as TIA’s “Toy Safety Mom.” Lawrence provides personal insight and views as both a parent and lifelong child safety advocate with more than 20 years of experience in the toy industry. Highlights of the user-friendly website include:
- An Age-by-Age Toy Buying Guide, based on childhood development research, to help parents pick appropriate playthings depending on their children’s age and interests
- Tips for New Parents, including information on safe toy selection and storage
- Facts About Toy Safety, including information about the United States’ strict toy safety tests and standards – and commonly circulated myths and inaccuracies about toy safety
- Tips for Magnet and Battery Safety, because sometimes kids come into contact with hazardous household objects that aren’t meant to be used as toys
- Toy Safety Q&As featuring toy safety questions from parents and answers from TIA’s Toy Safety Mom
Toy Safety Has Many Mothers. And Fathers. And…
All toys and games sold in the U.S. are required to meet more than 100 rigorous government safety standards and tests that are required by law, regardless of where they are made. These standards are shaped by a variety of considerations, including research on child development, medical and toy-related incident data, dynamic safety testing, scientific reports and risk analysis. U.S. toy safety requirements are among the most stringent in the world and are widely emulated in other markets around the globe. This ongoing safety process starts when a new idea is conceived, and is addressed at every step of the design and production through the arrival of a toy on a store shelf and then into the home. And regardless of where a toy is manufactured, to be sold in the U.S. it must meet these strict safety requirements and be certified for safety by a third-party, federally approved toy-testing lab.
Toy safety standards are continually revised to keep pace with innovation in products. A key element is the ASTM F963 Toy Safety Standard, under the auspices of ASTM International. This international standard is a mandatory rule for all toys sold in the U.S. and is under continual review by the ASTM Subcommittee on Toy Safety. ASTM F963 has been recognized by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and other regulatory bodies around the world as a gold standard for product safety. In 2013, CPSC Chairman Inez Tennenbaum recognized the F15.22 Subcommittee on Toy Safety, chaired by TIA’s Joan Lawrence, as a recipient of the Chairman’s Commendation Circle Award. This honor was given in recognition of the Subcommittee’s accomplishments in protecting children over the past three decades.
But it’s not just the government and safety experts that ensure toy safety. Parents, grandparents and caregivers also have a vital role in keeping kids safe at play. Making sure children play with age-appropriate toys is an essential element in the safety equation, which is easy to do by checking and following the age guidance and other safety information on toy packaging. It is important to note that age-grading is not about how smart a child is — it’s safety guidance based on the developmental skills and abilities of children at a given age, and the specific features of a toy. Choosing a toy that matches a child’s age and interests makes sense. If a toy is too advanced, the child will become frustrated, and if it’s too simple, they’ll get bored. And sometimes, that is when accidents happen.
Many parents are aware of the issue of choking hazards — but many don’t know that the risk doesn’t end with infancy. Children up to three years of age, and those who tend to mouth objects, should not have access to small parts, whether from toys or other items around the home (such as coins, buttons, batteries, etc.). Plush (stuffed) toys need to have age-appropriate features such as embroidered or well-secured eyes and noses for younger children, and seams that are reinforced to withstand an older child’s play. Accidents can be easily avoided by staying away from toys with sharp points or rough edges, especially for younger children. Toys are also subject to safety standards that limit the sound level and potential impact on children’s hearing. We recommend that parents pick ones that have a volume control. Age-grading and other labeling helps guide parents to products that are specifically designed to be developmentally appropriate and safe at a given age. Proper use and adult supervision of play, after a toy is brought home, can help ensure play is fun and safe.
The Genius of Play
The value of play to a child’s development cannot be understated. Studies show that play helps with flexibility of thought and problem solving and it increases a child’s confidence. Physical play, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, helps prevent obesity, reduces fat and improves muscle, bone and heart health and also helps build emotional and social skills. Symbolic play fosters cognitive, social and academic development, while also encouraging critical 21st century skills, such as imagination and creativity. In a survey of 1,500 CEOs, it was revealed that to prepare for careers in the 21st century, children needed more than rigor and managerial discipline — it is creativity that will play a much greater role in problem solving, negotiations, cultural adaptation, and more.
Expert advice on the value of play, play ideas and tips is available at www.thegeniusofplay.org, a site developed to help parents and caregivers raise smarter, healthier and happier kids through the genius of play.
By working together in a shared commitment to implement toy safety standards, we can continue to bring the inherent learning and value of play to our children, while keeping them safe.