Do you kids like cooperative board games?

We’ve gotten several new cooperative board games. So far our testers aren’t too interested.  Older game players really like the “winner” “loser” thing…and let’s face it, your average 3 1/2 – 4 year old expects that you will bend the rules to assure him a victory.  One of our testers said “what do you mean, we all win?”  I’m all for cooperative play–treasure hunts where everyone works on a team is a great experience for kids.  One of the most humbling experience I ever had in life was when my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Goldsmith, put all of the so called leaders in one group.  We lost terribly–because we couldn’t agree on a plan. It has always stuck with me – of course that was the point. Playing games with your kids is a great way to model good behavior but I’m not sure that means there can’t be a winner.

So let me know if any of these new games are hit in your house.

Checking our list…

We’re in the process of making sure that every product we put on our new Platinum list for this year has submitted a safety verification form.  Can you say paperwork!?  Everyone is being very forthcoming with their forms. We’ve had a few bumps in the road this past month with substrate lead that meet the new government standard but not our higher requirement. That said, the list is coming together nicely.  Sometimes after a bad day (when a ridiculous number of silly toys come through our office)…it feels like we won’t have a list…but of course we always find a find collection of products to write about.  If there are highlighted toys that you’re curious about please let us know. We’d be happy to take a look!  In about a month, the commercials will start and the refrain,  “hey can we get that toy?” will likely start from your family room.  With money tight this year, we’re really looking at toys that will have lasting play value as well as toys that don’t break the bank.

New Toy Safety Standard Announced

So we’re  delighted to announce that we reached a safety standard for this holiday season with a large number of toy companies (both large and small). We’ve been working on this issue since the end of last year’s holiday season.

As you may recall our Platinum Award winners last year were tested with two independent labs.  The final list included products that were determined to be lead free. We thought we could continue this policy but soon discovered  that there can be trace amounts of lead.  As a result, toy companies would not sign our safety verification form.  We then moved to the American Academy of Pediatrics definition of trace amounts at 40 ppm.   Several companies signed off at this level but not the majority. We spoke to many  quality assurance managers — they all said basically the same thing–that there could be contamination in the toy making process that could easily bring a toy above the 40 ppm.  At this point, we felt as if we were back where we started. Do we not review products? How would that work when it excluded many of the major toy companies.

After several weeks–we got a consensus.   We now require companies to verify the following:

products do not exceed 100ppm  for surface coated lead

products do not exceed 200ppm for substrate lead

product meets California’s law on phthalates

This is really a stop gap measure until the federal legislation kicks in (assuming the President signs the bill). We can not independently verify by testing the products we receive- but we have gotten companies to sign our form!

The federal legislation is chockful of good things from our point of view: mandatory third party testing, standards for testing; fines for non-compliance and more resources and oversight for the CPSC. What you may not know is that the lead levels for the bill are phased in–600ppm within 180 days of enactment; 300ppm within one year of enactment and 100ppm in three years.

So we were really pleased that we got so many companies to agree to the lower levels for this holiday season. As much as we’d love to claim victory–the pressure comes from a greater source in the free market system…the retailers responding to the demands of their consumers.

So now we can get back to looking at toys in terms of their play value.

As I write this, the cartons of new products are arriving-there are the new potty doll contenders, new wooden trains, new baby toys… It feels like the North Pole – fun, but not to worry, we’re working very hard!