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November 26, 2007

Safe Toys for Kids

What a challenge this holiday season is shaping up to be! With toy shopping taking on more of a Russian Roulette feel every day, how are we supposed to feel good about the toys we are getting for our kids? It seems every time I turn on the TV or open up the newspaper I'm hit with yet another toy recall leaving me feeling like teaching my five year old to juggle knives would be safer than purchasing the latest "must have" toy! The commercials on the kids stations are no help as they relentlessly strive to convince every child alive that they can not possibly survive one more minute unless they get THIS toy in their hot little hands right NOW!!! Sure, this particular toy may cause brain damage, stunted growth or poke the handlers eyes out, but kids needn't be inconvenienced with this information! Okay, so I do have to admit that there are at least a few toys in my kids playroom that I WISH would be recalled because they are so incredibly mind numbingly annoying. You know the ones - those seemingly designed with only two goals in mind"

1) To be the perfect anti-educational toy of the year and suck every last brain cell out junior's precious little head!


2) To make parents eyes twitch and cause that vein in the middle of our foreheads bulge! Of course there are bonus points for the toy that can drive the parent so insane that they hurl it out a window!

Now I get a LOT of catalogs. I try to be a good parent and look through all of them, but honestly it can be a daunting task. Then just this week as I was pondering what to do for toys this Christmas a few catalogs came that intrigued me. These toys were thoughtful, educational, well made and best of all, wouldn't make me want to put my head through the wall and question my sanity for buying it in the first place! Then, just when I thought it couldn't get better, there it was, a quality and safety guarantee! These merchants actually test EVERY toy they sell before they allow it to be sold in their catalog to make sure it meets US safety laws! I started looking at some of the other toy stores that are out there thinking that this seems to be an easy and relatively inexpensive service to provide customers and surely there must be more stores doing it. How quickly that rude awakening came! With so many online toy merchants out there I was shocked that I could only find 4, yes 4 merchants that do their own safety testing and offer such a guarantee! Then add to that the fact that these were not the big name stores that could easily afford to provide such a service, but small companies that were generally started by one or two people with the goal of providing quality toys. It's truly appalling. I could really go off on a tangent here about the big name stores and their greed, but I won't. Instead I will lead you to the 4 merchants that are still putting kids before profits, which in the end hopefully makes them more profitable. I think they should be rewarded for their efforts and deserve all our support this holiday season.

MindWare is the catalog that prompted this post, so I'll start with them. This site is packed with the coolest toys! Alex was looking through it and found something on practically every page that she would like to have. MindWare offers everything imaginable from books to that new Bionic Eye that just came out that lets the user magnify objects to 200 times their regular size and displays them on any TV screen. Better yet, though it won't be obvious to the kids, everything they sell is educational! So, your only challenge will be to try to hold back your joy when they beg to play just a little longer on their Math Mat Challenge! Their prices are great and they carry items for all ages.

Hearthsong has always been a favorite of mine. While not all of their items are educational, most are and those that aren't still don't fall into the "annoy mom and dad enough to drive them to the funny farm" category. They have a huge variety of items and their prices and customer service are fantastic. Last Christmas most of the kids gifts were purchased from Hearthsong and all of them were great. One of Alex's favorites was the Rock Polisher. THAT was a lesson in patience! Who knew that polishing rocks would take a month of continuous tumbling?! The wait was worth it though and she was thrilled with the results. Highlights is one most of us grew up with. Although the only thing I remember about them was their magazines, which is what they started with back in 1946. Now they carry all kinds if items with something for every age group. I think there might be a Creepy Crawlers Workshop under the tree this year for the bug nut of the family! If you're looking for anything Radio Flyer, check out They carry the entire Radio Flyer line, which has a fabulous safety record. Honorable mention needs to go to Oompa Toys. While it doesn't state on their website that they do their own safety testing it does talk about the lengths that they go to in order to provide quality unique, educational and safe toys. They are not only concerned with the safety and quality of the toys they carry, but where they are made and by who. They go to great lengths to make sure their products are produced in facilities with where safety and fairness is standard for their employees. I wish you all a wonderful and SAFE holiday season I hope this information was useful. Good luck out there!

Andrea Martini
Alex's Coupons

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