Christmas is fast approaching, and with it comes the agony of choice over what gifts to buy for friends and loved ones. Whatever your final decision from the enormous range of products on offer, safety should always be a factor – especially in children’s toys, which should be a source of delight and not of danger. TÜV SÜD’s expert, Robert Ziegler, explains what to watch out for when buying toys.
Test the volume: Jingling, rattling, clickety-clacking; toys that make noises are always popular with children. However, the volume levels they produce are often excessively loud. Some years ago, toy safety standards introduced extremely strict limits on toy volume to protect children’s hearing. Despite these legal restrictions, to rule out all risk of hearing damage it is wise to try out the volume of the toy before presenting it as a gift; babies and small children have particularly sensitive hearing.
To be sniffed at: Any item that smells strongly of chemicals or fragrance is best left on the shelf; the smell may indicate the presence of plasticisers such as phthalates, which are often found in soft plastic parts or plastic sheets. Fastness to saliva and perspiration is a basic requirement for all toys with a painted finish that may come into contact with the skin or mouth.
Batteries: Electrical or electronic toys are generally battery-driven. As acids or heavy metals may escape from batteries, this represents a further hazard for children. When purchasing toys of this kind, ensure that the battery compartment cannot be opened without using tools; this prevents small children from accessing the batteries or, worse, even swallowing them.
Wood or plastic: Brightly coloured plastic toys exert a magnetic attraction for many children. But is plastic always a worse choice than wood? Not necessarily, says the TÜV SÜD expert; in fact, in some cases it may be better. Plastic is waterproof and easily washable, making it a useful choice for trips away from home. The plastics used for outdoor toys should contain additives that guarantee a certain resistance to ageing. Plastic toys or parts should be replaced as soon as they show changes in colour or surface texture or have reached their maximum lifespan as stated by the manufacturer.
Round is right: To protect children from injury, toys should be absolutely free from any sharp corners or edges. When browsing for your purchase, pick up the toy and hold it for a while – this quick test can prevent many an unpleasant surprise later.
Small isn’t beautiful:Very small toys should be avoided, as children are tempted to put them in their mouths and try them out with all their senses. Toys for small children up to the age of 36 months should always be checked before purchasing – can parts be detached? Do the seams come apart? To rule out choking hazards, the width, depth and height of all toys or detachable parts should never be smaller than a two-euro piece.
A good wash: For reasons of hygiene, soft toys should always be machine-washable and should be washed before their first use according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It is also wise to test that any bows, bands, ribbons and buttons are properly affixed; if they come loose they could easily be swallowed by children and become a choking hazard.
Watch out for the signs: The GS (“Tested Safety”) marking is a voluntary product mark based on the German Product and Equipment Safety Act (GPSG). The CE marking, however, is mandatory for toys and provides proof that the manufacturer complies with applicable legal requirements. Despite its mandatory nature, there is no independent check for conformity, as is the case with the GS mark. The TÜV SÜD Octagon delivers useful guidance for consumers seeking to choose safe products. To be on the safe side when doing your Christmas shopping, watch out for these product marks.
For more information on toy safety testing, visit www.tuev-sued.de/toys.
Note: The photo can be downloaded in printable resolution from the "Media Photos" category at www.tuv-sud.com/pressphotos.
Press-contact: Heidi Atzler