With the eight billion (number approximate) toy recalls in recent months, a lot of my local mama friends are worried. Making your house safe for your children is fairly easy.
First, you should check the toys that are in your home. You can check for lead using the same device you’d use to check for lead paint. You can buy one locally at any hardware store — I know for sure that Koontz carries three different kinds (details below). If a toy has been recalled, there is no need to check it; just bring it to the store where it was purchased, or call the company for instructions if you don’t know where it was bought.
The next order of business is to get better toys into your house. Most toys these days are made of plastic, which can be harmful even if it does not contain lead or small pieces that break off or any of the other recallable offenses. You can read about the negative aspects of plastic here (check out the links on the right side of the page).
Buying better toys is expensive, and it may be difficult to convince well-meaning relatives, but try to remember that your child is just as happy banging on pots and pans, and it is really OK to have fewer toys that are well-made, a little more special, and safe. That said, it might not be your priority. That’s OK too (but seriously, check for lead).
A few of my favorite toy stores below the cut.
Where to Buy Natural Toys:
Acorn in Santa Monica (no website; 1220 5th Street, 90401) is my favorite local toy store. They carry only natural toys, primarily made of wood. Most of the toys are European (I believe the proprietress is German) and many are handcrafted. Those that are mass-produced in China (Melissa & Doug and some Haba toys) are made at factories that are closely regulated by the companies.
Mahar Dry Goods is an online shop run by Robert Mahar of Santa Monica. The selection of handcrafted toys and gifts is astonishing.
The Puzzle Zoo also carries a good selection of wooden toys — nothing you can’t find at Acorn, but their prices are a few dollars lower.
The LA County Fair is coming up, too, and is a great opportunity to find toys and baby items handmade by locals – but do keep in mind that the materials used to make the toys may come from China. It is OK to ask where the materials come from, and it is a good idea to remember that not everything from China is automatically dangerous.
Know of another good local resource for natural toys? Leave a comment!
Testing for Lead:
I sent an email to Koontz Hardware in West Hollywood, the only local non-chain hardware store with an email contact listed on their website. I got this back from them:
Yes, we do carry three different lead test kits. One is a swab that turns red if any lead is present, and two that require the user to take a sample and send it into a lab. There is a lead paint test kit and a lead in water test kit that require lab work.
the swab kit is for 2 uses and costs 7.99
the lab kits are 12.99 and includes postage paid to the lab that is partnered with the company. But the lab fees are an additional $20.00. The labs give you a complete analysis of the amount of lead in the sample, and are mainly used for verifying the absence of lead in real estate transactions.