LEGO has been a consistent winner of our top Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award each year–often with multiple winners. This year will be no exception–except in one category.
When we were at Toy Fair in February we were really excited to see a renewed commitment to the DUPLO line–designed for kids 2 & up. There were Fire Stations, Trucks, Zoos…all great fun and we knew our preschool testers would love giving them a try.
Each set has arrived and while they are wonderful for 3s & up, we are concerned about the size of some of the pieces in these sets for kids under three. While most of the pieces are big and chunky, we found one or two pieces that caused concern. Let us be clear, all of the pieces meet current government guidelines. Each of the pieces in question (see images below) extend outside of the “choke tube” and therefore are completely legal. We wondered though–why make these pieces so close? The CPSC recommends that parents use a toilet paper roller as a home test…all of these pieces fail under this test.
So we asked the team at LEGO whether there was a design or developmental advantage to having two year olds handle such small pieces and why the pieces were so close to the edge. Here is their response:
Thanks for your question about the DUPLO Zoo* item and some of the accessories it includes. As you know, all LEGO products are rigorously tested and meet or exceed all safety regulations in the more than 130 countries where the products are sold. Because the safety of children is our primary concern, we also have our own safety and testing standards that we layer on top of the regulated requirements.
We always make effort to have play imitate life, so the size of the suitcase is proportionate to the DUPLO figure. We would not include an accessory that could potentially cause harm to a child or that does not pass the CPSC standard for small parts and age grading as regulated by the official choke tube test. The accessory does not fit completely into the choke tube and use and abuse testing reveals that it also does not break into small parts that will fit completely in the tube. While we understand the “home” test potential of the toilet paper tube, it is not a regulated means by which to measure safety as it has no bottom to mimic a real-life scenario.
*Since we asked this question about the DUPLO Zoo, we have received several other set that raise similar issues for us.
While we appreciate that the idea of scale is important–we’d side on the up-scaling or eliminating these items for this age range. The working light piece on the top of the truck (one of the coolest aspects of the garbage truck–and also in the fire station set) could have been attached to a bigger piece, the fireman’s ax could be attached to his hand, the same with the pitchfork…you get the idea. The flower and the fish…just look so inviting.
All of these products would have been Platinum Award contenders if not for these small pieces. We do recommend them for preschoolers–but unfortunately we don’t feel comfortable with the existing age label. If you buy one of these sets and you have a child under three or a child who still mouths his toys…remove those pieces that concern you and you’ll be left with a engaging product.
We hope LEGO will remodel these “close” pieces. Last year, after our concern over STEP 2′s hot dogs (that came with some of their kitchens)…the hot dogs were redesigned…so that the hot dog is now encased in a bun–making it a much wider and safer prop for play.
Below are some of the pieces, in our opinion, that are unnecessarily too close for comfort. Again–completely within the law, but we see no reason for them to be this size.