When Is A Toy Not A Toy?

How safe are your child's toys?

Federal regulations for children’s products are finally being enforced. That should ensure safer toys for our children by taking dangerous toys off the market. That’s good news, right?

Not for toy manufacturers, who are scrambling to cope with the new rules. Not by making their products safer, as we might hope. No, they’re hoping to get around the rules by pretending their products are not intended for children.


The Consumer Products Safety Commission has to define what a “toy” is, and thus which products fall under these rules. You’d think it’s pretty simple, but nothing ever is.

So. What is a toy? The basic definition they’re looking for is, ‘A thing used primarily by children under 12.’

But it gets complicated. Model train makers want the CPSC to know that their trains are mostly purchased by middle-aged men trying to recapture their glory days. The Handmade Toy Alliance wants a pass on toys that are “usually” used with supervision, like toy baking sets. And sports manufacturers have gone beyond cryptic:

“The fact that legitimate sporting goods have ‘play value’ or that users have ‘fun’ while using a legitimate sport good is tangential to the well-recognized foundational purposes of these products,” wrote Bill Sells, the group’s vice president, in a letter to the commission. His group “takes the position that ‘size’ does not matter.”

The CPSC should err towards the safety of kids, not the bottom lines of toy companies, in making these definitions. For that matter, why can’t we have lead and other toxins removed from all our consumer goods, not just the ones with cartoon characters printed on them?

Photo: Anthony Cain

More by Sierra Black:

I Flunk Being A Girly Mama

Why I Don’t Miss Homeschooling

How Smartphones Made The Playground Fun

Stepmothers: Do You Really Love Your Husband’s Kids?

10 Ways To Squash Sibling Rivalry

Article Posted 6 years Ago
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