Safety issues remain

December 16, 2009

I just got an amazing new collection of small wooden blocks…150 pieces with an even greater price. The quality is very good–there are both plain and colored blocks.  I was really psyched -hoping we could get a safety verification form quickly so that we could put it on our Platinum List.  But then I looked at the age label 2 & up and while all of the pieces pass the federal guidelines for small parts with a choke tube, the pieces are just a tad bigger than the regulations provide. In otherwords, they are legal but if you used a toilet paper roller (recommended to consumers by the CPSC), the pieces would fail.

This year we got many many sets with toys for pieces that are unnecessarily small.  And while you could argue that your two year old may not choke, the pieces could certainly gag your toddler. If you’ve watched toddlers play, you  know they still taste their toys.

There is no developmental or educational value of smaller parts for this age group that outweighs the safety issues poses by these smaller pieces.

So – yes toys are much safer this holiday season.  The toy industry is now required to pre-test toys -rather than the old self-regulation systems.  But still know that you are still the best consumer advocate your child can have.   We  still advise you to take a toilet paper roller and do your own at home test.  If the toy fits within diameter of the roller, put it away for now.


Pick of the Day: Corolle’s Rag Doll

December 10, 2009

Corolle's Large Rag Doll

If you’re looking for a first doll for a baby or toddler, take a look at Corolle’s Rag Dolls–they are extremely huggable, sweet and soft.

Read our review.

CPSC begins probe: Are Zhu Zhu Hamsters Safe?

December 7, 2009

After the consumer group, Good Guide, raised issues about their finding on the level of antimony in the Zhu Zhu hamsters, the government agency is beginning a probe on the issue. Cepia LLC, the manufacturer of the Zhu Zhu Hamsters, is standing by the safety of their toys.   Read the story from Reuters.

Zhu Zhu Hamsters: Group Questions their Safety

December 5, 2009

The consumer group Good Guide has raised issues about the safety of the Zhu Zhu Hamsters.   To read more about our take on them, read our article Zhu Zhu Hamster Pets: What You Need to Know about the Hot Little Critters.   We have not received a signed  safety verification form from Cepia LLC for the Zhu Zhu Hamsters.  (Hence we can not consider them for an award from our Unlike Good Guide we do not do independent testing–we do require companies to sign a safety verification form. However we do not look at the wide range of chemicals/minerals/toxins that Good Guide indicates it looks at on their site.

Mattel’s Lead Paint Toy Settlement: Do You Qualify?

December 5, 2009

Read this article in the Examiner by Patricia Walston–it takes you step by step to see if you are entitled to part of the settlement money.

Is Lead Still An Issue this Holiday Season?

November 18, 2009

I recently did a radio interview with Richard Davies at ABC Radio. Richard commented that I was in a much better mood this holiday season.  I do feel lighter this season–after a couple of years of being worried about the safety of toys being marketed and sold to children.  The government is continuing to phase in the stricter testing requirements.  We are also really pleased that companies across the board are complying with our safety standards (we have taken the end point of the federal regulations and made them a prerequisite for companies submitting toys to us). So yes, I am a whole bunch happier this year.  Are there still safety issues?  Yes.  We still take issue with small pieces that “just” pass the choke tube test…or pull toys that no longer have a safety break-away  feature…or wooden toys with splinters…or smelly and excessively noisy toys…you get the idea.

But it is important that we have safety groups that are still spot checking. The CEH (Center for Environmental Health) have recently released some testing that found unsafe levels of lead in children’s products.  The non-profit is offering free toy testing in its Oakland office during the holiday season. For more info, visit

While we do not independently test each toy we review, we do require companies to submit and sign a safety verification form.  We looking forward to the day when we  no longer need such a form.


Pick of the Day: Mattel’s MindFlex

November 3, 2009

Mattel's MindFlex Game

The first time we saw this game was at toy fair.  Now in all fairness, when we go to toy fair, we’re a pretty silly group.  So when the demonstrator for MindFlex at the Mattel showroom was trying his best to show us this super cool toy, we kept distracting him.  At one point, he even seemed a little anxious about not being able to perform his toy demonstrator duties.

He wore a headgear that had two clips that he attached to his earlobes.  From there he told us that he could control the little blue ball with his mind-making it go up and down and through the obstacle course.  To be absolutely honest here, I was sure we were being punked.  I kept looking around to see if this was a joke.  They assured me that it was for real–and that normally when people allow the guy to do his thing it really works.

Ok, ok…sometimes we don’t behave well.  I wrote down the toy as  something we’d love to see but then I stopped thinking about it.  Last month while I was at the Today Show, Dave– one of the best stage managers ever– showed me a clip of his son working the MindFlex. ( What would we all do without our iphone video clips?)  Anyway…he could not say enough great things about this toy.  How it appealed to both of his boys and that it  helped with working on concentration as a skill.

With that great recommendation, we asked for one to be sent right away.  Sure enough this is one of the coolest toys we’ve tested, period. We’ve added it to this year’s Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award List.

The other amazing aspect of the toy is that it appeals to tweens, teens and adults.  My dad, a spry guy in his late 70s, also took a run at the toy.  He was surprised , as was every adult that has tried it, that he could make it work.  It really is so futuristic — makes me wonder what kind of toys I’ll be reviewing down the road.

So if you’ve seen an ad or a commercial – know that this is for real and loads of fun.  The platform has interchangeable parts so that you can challenge yourself and others to different obstacle courses.  Such a great design aspect–making this a more open-ended play experience. And if you’re looking for something to buy a video game addicted teen, here you go.
Click here to read our full review…and watch the video.