Selecting Safe Educational and Sound Producing Toys for Children

Sound Producing Toys
Concern regarding sound levels and the effect it may have on a child’s hearing is growing. The Sight & Hearing Association recently tested 24 toys and found 16 of them produced sounds louder than 85 dB, which is the level set by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) for mandatory hearing protection. What is most alarming is that the top two toys this year are intended for infants under the age of six months.

Walking down the toy aisles in a store, you will find many popular toys that produce sounds of various types.

Major categories include
• Percussion toys (drums, xylophone, tambourines)
• Voice toys (phones, spelling devices, microphones)
• Wind toys (toy instruments)
• Shooting toys (cap guns)

However, for children, hearing damage adversely impacts the development of speech and social skills, leading to learning problems. There is a wide range of causes of hearing loss in children. However, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can result from unsafe toys and is entirely preventable. For this reason, global regulatory authorities have developed criteria to regulate sound-producing toys.

Toy Safety Standards
• ASTM F963-17
• EN71-1
• AS/NZS 8124.1:2016
• GB6675.2-2014
• ISO 8124-1:2014

Educational Toys
Many available toys are educational. As such, they may be useful for developmental and learning tools. Parents should select the toys that foster the imagination of children, like those which encourage creativity, education, or physical activity in addition to being fun.

“Real educational toys are not the flashy gadgets and gizmos with big promises, but the staples that have built creative thinkers for decades,” says Roberta Golinkoff, Ph.D., head of the Infant Language Project at the University of Delaware.

One good example of this is an open-ended toy. These are toys that are useful in a variety of ways and that encourage children to engage their imagination by finding new ways to interact with the toy. Children use them to invent and build their creations while experiencing the satisfaction of designing and building a finished product.

Examples
• Play Kitchens and House
• Blocks, Stacking and Building Sets
• Dolls & Action Figures
• Animal and Farm Sets
• Cars, Trains, and other Vehicles
• Push and Pull Carts

Puzzles are another example of a toy which can fall into the educational category. Puzzles are great for spatial awareness, pattern recognition, problem-solving, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor skills.

Giving Children age-appropriate toys to play with is the best way to take advantage of educational toys. Good educational toys are those that capture children’s attention and keep it. No matter which toys you choose, one of the best things you can do is to get in on the fun.

Even when toys appear benign, some toys have been sold with materials that include hazardous chemicals. So, parents must be diligent in choosing safe toys. Informed decision making and development of good judgment requires research.

Resources to Check
• Safe Kids Organization
• Toy Safety Wikipedia
• USA Consumer Product Safety Commission
• The Toy Association
• World Against Toys Causing Harm

HQTS has long advocated for toy safety. Our quality control services, which include toys testing and inspections, has underscored our ongoing interest and concern for safe toy production.

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Select Safe Toys for Babies

What safety factors need to be considered when selecting plush, soft-fill and teething toys for babies.

Plush and Soft-fill Toys / Teething Toys

Babies learn about the world through their senses of touch, sight, and smell. Thus, toys play an integral role at an early age in helping them grow physically, mentally and socially. Since toy safety is a crucial issue for parents, choosing toys should be done based on sound information and judgment. Before choosing toys, it is essential to consider all appropriate safety and regulatory issues.

Soft-fill and Plush Toys
These toys are a favorite. Cuddly animals or dolls with different textures help babies to discover and develop their sense of touch. However, before purchasing, many safety factors must be weighed.

A general safety checklist should include:

• Materials
– Look for non-toxic toys and phthalate and BPA free
– Make sure the label indicates the material is washable.
– Avoid toys with batteries unless the compartment is not accessible to a
child, i.e., screwed shut.
– Look for toys that are flame resistant

• Choke Hazard
– Avoid buttons, batteries, yarn, ribbons, eyes, beads, cords, string and
plastic parts that could easily be chewed or snapped off.

• Construction
– All seams and appendages should be tightly sown and resist spreading
under pressure.

• Sharp Edges
– Avoid sharp edges such as plastic horns and claws.

• Size
– Avoid oversize soft-filled, and plush toys for small babies due to the
danger of suffocation.

Teething Toys
Babies that drool and chew on anything they can find indicates the start of teething. Teething is an exciting developmental time but has some discomfort, both for mom and baby. Teething toys are available to help your baby chew on something safe, and useful. Teething toys can provide a measure of relief. They come in a wide variety of shapes and materials, but due to the fact they used in the baby’s mouth, safety should be a primary concern. The journal Environmental Science & Technology research published a study that found that among 59 teethers tested in the USA, 26 were found to include unsafe amounts of hazardous substances.

A parent’s safety checklist should include the following items at a minimum:

• Chemicals
– Look for only phthalate, antimicrobial agents such as triclosan and
triclocarban, and BPA free
– Look for non-toxic labeling, but also research the manufacturer
– Liquid filled teethers generally have salt water or glycerin and water,
so are considered safe, in the event of breakage or leaking, but it is
essential to check.
– Avoid teething toys that appear painted.

• Size and Shape
– Do not choose a teething toy that is too small nor too large

HQTS toy experts hope all parents and babies can enjoy the safe use of toys throughout childhood. As a top provider of toy testing services in China, we work hard to prevent unsafe toys from entering the market and damaging a child’s prospects for healthy growth.

Watch for future papers on HQTS safe toy initiatives.

Quality Control – DIY or Call in the Experts?

Will in-house quality control, or a third-party quality control provider, best help me achieve my quality goals? Which approach makes the most sense from a budget perspective? Can I affectively do both? How can I trust someone to know my product as well as I do? How can I control ethics and bribery?

The answer to these questions are clearly different for different organizations, and situations. This article will merely provide you with some considerations – advantages and disadvantages – that may help you in your decisioning process.

Personal Experience

I ran a sourcing business for nearly 10 years. In that time, I dealt with a myriad of quality and vendor issues. Some of these included: wrong product colors, wrong sizing, tools that bent or broke easily, substandard shoe leather, flimsy packaging, poorly loaded containers, horrendous factory conditions, and child labor.

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

These are only a few of the many quality related problems I faced. In a few cases, just in time delivery of containers full of defective products had a significant negative impact on my business. I learned that a solid QC plan was necessary to keep my customers happy and business profitable.

In fact, I found a mix of in-house quality control and third-party inspections to be right in my case. My situation was different from many, in that my in-house inspectors wore many hats, not just as quality control inspectors. So, justifying the cost was easy for me.

I Know My Product Better Than Anyone!

You should! But, do you know all relevant import regulations? How about testing requirements, recall issues, and AQL inspection standards? Do you know all the tricks suppliers play to offer the best price against an awesome sample, while delivering a substandard product? Do you know how to best avoid production delays? Can you match the quality technical and industry knowledge of third-party quality control providers? Can you really trust test results from your supplier?

In many cases, the answer will be NO! Your business is to develop, manufacture and sell products. Sometimes it is best to leave quality control to the experts.

Cost

Consider the facts. Where pure cost is an issue, a third- party quality control provider is almost always the best option. Why? For example, it is seldom cheaper for someone to travel to Asia to do inspections than using a third-party inspection company.

If your company is large enough to staff in-house quality control in Asia, it can be workable, but the commitment and cost is still significant. Even in this case, there are times when it will be more cost effective, or technically wise, to bring in a third-party quality control provider.

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

Scalability

Do you work with a single supplier or a few in the same city? Is your production infrequent? Doing your inspections with in-house staff might make sense. For many, however, production frequency and volume changes with the seasons and product types. Factories are in disparate locations. You might have a limited ability to scale staff to those needs. A third-party inspection provider gives you flexibility in achieving staffing, seasonable, and multi-location requirements.

Antibribery

Some assume this risk increases with third-party quality control providers. However, the risk of corruption must be factored into your in-house quality control model as well. In-house quality control departments are constantly dealing with this issue, because it often comes down to the local inspector, regardless of who they are working for. The key is a practical antibribery policy and how the policy is carried out.

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

Of course, you can do this yourself. But the advantage of an accredited third-party quality control provider is unmistakable. A reputable provider will not only have an ethics policy and anti-bribery program in place, they can prove the results with data. It is simple for any company to say, “yes we have an anti-bribery policy”, or “all our inspectors are ethical”. This makes it vital to request documentation that proves how the program works.

Technical Expertise

Since nobody knows your product as well you, you may have a case for training in-house quality control inspectors. But, if you import wide range of products, a third-party inspection can provide expertise, and industry insight, you may not have. We are up-to-date with the latest trends, technology, and regulations. We also have deep experience and technical insight for a wide range of products. In addition, a good QC company will also be happy to accept whatever product training you want to provide.

Conclusions: Third-Party vs. In-House Quality Control

I have learned the hard way – a good quality control plan must be in place. In many cases I found the third-party inspections to be much quicker, more flexible and cost effective. Third-party quality control providers were more skilled at technical and social audits, which helped build value in my sales to retailers. They also helped me keep my in-house QC staff honest by means of unannounced inspector audits.

In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

A third-party quality control company also did all my testing. I learned to never to blindly trust self-testing by a supplier, or from their chosen labs. They tend to use their own equipment with dubious calibration record, or local testing labs that are not certified. So, the results were always suspect. If you do trust them, double check with a certified testing company from time to time. The supplier is usually not the one hurt by a recall or lawsuit, you are.

Even if you have the resources for in-house quality control in Asia, there will be times when third-party inspection services make total sense. Whether it be quality control inspections, factory audits, social compliance, supplier evaluations, consumer goods testing, or other quality assurance requirements, there will be a circumstance where third-party services can be a huge help.

Whatever you decide, remember, it’s your money and brand on the line.

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In-house quality control vs. third-party quality control inspections

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