My wife, listening to my ramblings has learned a lot about toy safety and juvenile products over the years and I completely trust her buying decisions now that we have an infant at home. Lulu can push buttons, grab pull strings, is now rolling like a kick ball and puts almost everything in her mouth. Perhaps I am being a biased dad, but I think she is the smartest and most beautiful 5 month old I have ever met.
Kerri made a quick stop by the local dollar discount store the other day (I won’t mention any specific names) to pick up a couple of things and passed through the toy aisle. She made a few purchases; including some bunny ears for the baby….you can see what I mean by beautiful baby below.
Kerri always shares her purchases with me, so of course she showed me a pair of rattles that she found at this dollar discount store. The rattles, it turns out weren’t rattles, but “maracas” according to the product packaging. The age grade also stated ’3+’ in very small type on the top right hand corner of the package card. I don’t think Kerri made a bad purchase; in fact, had I not known about the hazardous shapes of rattles (who knows this stuff outside of my profession?), I would have given these to the baby too. I am sure a lot of parents would have given them to their baby. Why wouldn’t they? They make a rattling noise, have a handle small enough for the baby to grasp and characters that are considered more for 3 to 5 year olds, yet are very inviting for even 9-36 month olds; at least I think so, but I don’t work in marketing. Do all parents know that ’3+’ means 3+ years even?
I won’t disclose the license, characters or even the distributor of this toy, because they have technically done nothing wrong. However, my wife, who knows more about toy safety than the average mom, thought this product would be safe for Lulu and I would expect the same of any mom. The problem with the rattle pictured below is the shape and design of the handle.
There is a safety regulation called 16 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 1510 that forbids the introduction of hazardously shaped rattles into the US stream of commerce. If any part of the rattle can completely pass through a test gauge which has an opening larger than a paper towel tube and is less than 2″ thick, then it can lodge in the throat of a baby and suffocate them. Also, the industry standard for toys in the US, which has also recently become federal law, forbids toys with a spherical, hemispherical or circular flared ends and weighing less than 1.1 lbs. from passing through a similar gauge to that described above. This is because children can place the object in their mouth, fall and the handle cause damage to their windpipe, lodge in their throat and suffocate them. Would you think that this harmless looking “maracas” could harm your baby in such a way?
According to the manufacturer the maracas are not intended for the age group covered in the safety requirements; 18 months and under. However, the product to me looks like a rattle. The old adage; if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, then it is a duck. Here is an example of a similar case; Pottery Barn recalled 4th of July fashioned clackers about 8 years ago for two reasons; 1) they had a small peg that released from the product, posing a choking hazard and 2) had a handle that failed to meet the requirements in 16 CFR 1510, because the handle was able to pass through the test gauge. There seems to be a similarity between the PB clacker and our maraca.
The moral of this posting; don’t always assume that the products you purchase are safe for your kids. Do your best to follow labeled age grades and consider how the item may be used by your child; not just at the time of purchase, but a year down the road, when they may not be under you constant supervision. Items like this are unsafe for children under 18 months and in my personal opinion, under 3 years old. Buy items like this for older kids, but don’t give them to your little ones, because they will place them in their mouth and rigid handles shaped like the one above could be disastrous. The rule of thumb for rattles; buy plush rattles from reputable toy or baby retailers and from manufacturers you recognize.