Friday, June 11, 2010

Toys and Recomended Age Guidelines (and some new ones from Green Toys)

One of the challenges we face as toy store owners is how to deal with our manufacturers' perceptions of age recommendation vs. our customers' (and their children's) perceptions. What does it mean if a toy is labeled for 6 and up? Can I not give it to my 5 year old? Or, my four year old really likes these wooden blocks, but they're labeled for ages 1 and up--does that mean they're too babyish for her?

Usually, these age guidelines are only guesses by the manufacturer about which children will most like a toy. Haba, for example, gets real specific with its wood toys--some rattles are labeled for 1/2 year olds, some for 3/4 year olds, if that makes any sense. Almost all of these recommendations can be taken with a grain of salt except for one: Age 3 and up.

When a child turns three, they are officially trusted by government safety standards to play with small parts. Three year olds generally know not to swallow marbles, game pieces, rubber bands, etc. So, if a toy is rated for ages 3+, it usually means that the product contains small parts or that small parts could break off during normal use and abuse.

It costs more to design, manufacturer and test products to be safe for kids under three. Over the years, we have seen some toy companies make products that will naturally appeal to a toddler or a two year old but, in order to save costs, will label the toy for ages 3+. We've dropped several lines of toys because we felt the manufacturer's age recommendations were not appropriate.

For that reason, we really appreciate Green Toy's announcement this week that they have retested and certified several of their most popular toys for kids under three after it became clear that their toys had wider appeal than they anticipated. This kind of action is very rare in the toy business and we really respect Green Toys making this effort. Their new age guidelines are as follows:

Now Ages 2+:
Tea Set
Cookware and Dining Set
Tool Set

Now Ages 1+:
Dump Truck
Recycling Truck

Now Ages 18m+:
Sand Play Set

So, if you've been holding off on buying one of these great toys because your child is too young, take another look! They're all made in the USA from 100% recycled milk bottles. We really like Green Toys--both their toys and the way they do business.

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