A toy expert talks about buying safe toys this holiday season and the secret to finding the hot toy of the season!

The holidays will be here before you know it and that means TOYS! I was able to get an email interview with Kristin Morency, a Toy Association Spokesperson. She gave advice for everyone who is buying toys this holiday season for children of all ages. The safety guidelines to consider, where they’re made and more tips.

Q: What should toy consumers be on the lookout for regarding safety when they are purchasing toys anytime, but especially for the holidays? 

Morency: “Families should always shop at reputable retailers that they know and trust. They can rest assured that toys sold through legitimate retailers have been tested for compliance and safety with over 100 strict standards and tests. It’s possible that a “toy” sold by an unknown retailer, whether in person or online, might be a counterfeit product that has not undergone the safety testing required by federal law.”

When shopping online, always spend some time digging deeper into a lesser-known seller’s history, by searching for the company’s website and mission statement, and carefully reading reviews. If you can’t find a website for the manufacturer or seller at hand, it’s considered to be a red flag. Multiple grammatical errors in a product description or review, or poorly photoshopped pictures, are other red flags. As a rule of thumb, if a deal on a hot toy looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Additionally, parents should always pay attention to the age grading on a toy. Toys marked 3+ may have small parts that could present a choking hazard to children under the age of three.“ 

Q: “How important is it that people make sure they are buying age appropriate toys and look for the listing for specific ages on boxes?”

Morency: “It’s very important, and something parents, grandparents, and other gift givers should always pay attention to, as age grading isn’t based on a child’s intelligence, rather it’s a safety guidance based on the development skills of children at a given age. Children under the age of three or who are still mouthing toys are at a higher risk of swallowing small parts and potentially choking. If parents are still unsure about the parts and pieces of a toy, they can use a Small Parts Tester, available in the baby-proofing section of a store or website. This federally approved tool for testing can help to assess whether toys meet the size requirements outlined in the small parts regulation, which was developed using research and recommendations from pediatricians, child development experts, government officials, and industry experts and has been adopted around the world.”

Q: What are ingredients in toys that could be hazardous to kids that consumers should know about?

Morency: “Families can be sure that all toys sold on U.S. toy shelves are safe regardless of where they are made, as they must adhere to strict U.S. safety standards and regulations. There are over 100 strict toy safety regulations, tests and requirements designed to protect children at play and make it illegal to sell toys or children’s products containing substances harmful to children and to which they might be exposed.”

Q: Where do people look to find recalled toys? How often should they look?

Morency: “Recalls are rare and the toy industry has a remarkable record of producing safe products. In fact, less than a fraction of one percent of the three billion toys sold each year in the U.S. are recalled. The toy industry works hand in hand with government agencies and other groups to protect consumers from products that violate the strict safety laws. However, parents should be aware of toys that have been recalled before holiday shopping this year, especially if shopping online. Regularly consult PlaySafe.org for a list of recalled products. The website is updated as soon as any new recall information is published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.” 

Q: What kind of advice would you give a parent, grandparent, etc. consumer about making safe choices for the gift recipient?

Morency: “Gift-givers should always follow age grading recommendations and buy only from reputable sellers. We also recommend that parents and other gift givers consult www.PlaySafe.org which has tons of safety advice, including how to select age appropriate toys, how to make sure you are making smart shopping decisions, and tips for playing safely once the gifts are unwrapped.“

Q: And what are this year’s top toys? 

Morency: “The hottest toy is whatever your child is most excited to play with! There are so many exciting new toys coming out this year and it really depends on your child’s age, and what he or she is most interested in. Parents can get shopping ideas at ToyAwards.org which features expertly selected toys across a variety of categories, for all ages and interests.”

Q: Can you talk about the toys that really have good reviews and why they are going to be a big hit this season?

Morency: ”As mentioned, the toys featured right now (as of Oct. 29) on ToyAwards.org are the best on the market. These toys are finalists for the prestigious Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) (which will be awarded in February) and have been selected by a panel of expert judges. There, you’ll find 117 toy finalists across 16 categories, from Action Figure of the Year and Doll of the Year, to STEAM Toy of the Year and Playset of the Year. These are great gift ideas for all ages and interests.”

Q: Also is there a difference in the quality of the toy product if it is made in America or in China ? What are the statistics about this? Does it change the quality control of the toy if it isn’t made in the USA?

Morency: “Any toy sold here in the U.S. must first meet the previously mentioned 100+ strict federal safety standards and be tested for compliance by a third-party testing lab. This is true for any toy sold here, no matter where in the world it is made, including China.“  

Q: What are some tips about toys that you would give to people who have a new toddler or even a young baby (three month old on up) in their lives?

Morency: “Pay attention to age grading listed on all toy packaging. If the product notes “for ages 3+” it is not a suitable toy for babies and toddlers, likely due to small parts. Parents and gift givers can use the Safe Toy Buying Guide at PlaySafe.org to assess what toys are the best to purchase based on how old their child is.”