Mattel: Fully complied with our safety forms

I’m really happy to report that Mattel has fully complied with our requirement that all toys considered for our awards be verified by a third party, independent lab.   While we did not ask for everything, they do have a very long list of award winners between the Mattel and Fisher-Price lines.

As you know our safety requirements go beyond the current government regulations. While we do not independent test the toys, we do require companies to verify that the products meet our standards and that they are tested in an independent lab. There was some concern last week about the Mattel/ Fisher-Price toys that we wanted to review given the news that Mattel had been exempted by the government to use third party labs.  We are delighted that they provided us with verification forms for the products we requested.

We will post our new lists and our brand new website on  September 15th.  I’ll be on the Today Show that morning to share some of our top picks in the educational toy category.

Really? …Star Wars Death Star for Babies

I love Star Wars…and if you’ve noticed, Star Wars toys often find their way to our award list even though technically they violate our “no violent or aggressive toy” rules.  It’s fantasy after all.


However, I have to draw the line at a board book  – marketed to babies and toddlers – STAR WARS Spaceships (Scholastic).  What could this possibly mean to children under the age of two?  Is knowing and naming the different parts of the Imperial fleet important?  How about more basic knowing and naming concepts like cup or banana?IMG_0883

Most outrageous really is the last page…here’s one you certainly will want to share with your baby on your lap….Let’s all say it together…

“Death Star ….This spaceship has a dangerous laser. BOOM!” IMG_0884

I certainly get mass merchandising as a concept…but this one goes too far.


If you have a toddler or preschooler, they probably have grown attached to one particular stuffed animal or blanket.  These often well-worn “lovies”  become such important touchstones, that we often recommend you have a backup.  With my younger son, we spent hours scouring toy and gift stores for exactly the same Simba doll that sadly went missing at the park.  Even at two, he knew the difference.

I’m always curious about how this relationship develops. With our older son Adam, we even have a photo of the first encounter. adamfirst065From the moment he hugged his first Gund Snuffles at his first birthday party, it was love.  Even though he couldn’t talk yet, this particular bear became his constant companion and eventually  would become the Mama bear to  a family of smaller Snuffles.  The original bear’s nose was so thread bare that we had to do a midnight exchange.  (My mother was afraid that he would literally bite off his nose! )  Even as he got much older and welcomed a new brother–who of course had to have his own family of bears–this lovey remained in an honored position.

One of the great pleasures of the evening was to eavesdrop on the elaborate stories both boys would weave about their polar bears. They each had silly names, their own language and as a nod to the world they live in, they had their own Polar Bear TV Network–with lots of different programs.

Of course I still highly recommend Gund’s Snuffles. He is an institution in our house.  A nearby children’s store always had a wonderful display of snuffles during the holidays..and since my kids rarely went to toy stores, it was extremely special for them to actually go buy a new bear to add to their growing family.

Here are some other choices that may invite such relationships:

1. North American Bear’s Collection of Flatsos.  Take your pick, there are pink Elephants, Blue Hippos, Green Frogs…each come in a variety of sizes and are fantastically floppy and deliciously huggable.


2. Kids Preferred Asthma Friendly Puppy Dog is also very sweet and huggable. 

3. Blabla dolls. I’m in love with this collection of dolls and animals. Pricey but very special.

4. Joobles. Deliciously soft and friendly…happily gender neutral. 

Handmade Toy Alliance reacts to Testing Exemptions for Mattel

We are waiting to hear back on the status of our safety forms from Mattel. In the meantime, I thought this was worth sharing.


“The Handmade Toy Alliance reacts to Testing Exemptions for Mattel”

St. Paul, MN – September 1, 2009 – The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) continues to

issue important guidance on several key areas of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

(CPSIA), which was passed by Congress in August 2008 and requires all children’s products to be

tested for safety by third party laboratories. Except, it turns out, for toys made by Mattel, the world’s

largest toymaker, who has recalled 12.7 million toys for safety hazards or lead paint since 2007.

The CPSC granted Mattel permission to operate “firewalled” in-house testing facilities instead of

paying third party laboratories for performing required toy safety testing. Although such in-house

testing facilities are allowed under the CPSIA (due to Mattel’s heavy lobbying in 2008), only very

large manufacturers can meet the requirements set forth in the law.  Smaller manufacturers, including

the members of the Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA), must pay third party labs for testing services

ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars per item.

“We are concerned that this is just another example of the fox guarding the hen house,” wrote

Consumer Reports.  Members of the Handmade Toy Alliance couldn’t agree more.  “Mattel is one of

just a few companies that caused all the panic over toy recalls back in 2007,” said Dan Marshall, Vice

President of the HTA and co-owner of Peapods Natural Toys (MN). “While the provisions of the

CPSIA are causing hardship for hundreds of smaller companies with impeccable safety records, Mattel

has been allowed to bring their testing back in house with only a promise that they will not have

continued lapses in product safety.”

“This really makes me crazy,” said Jill Chuckas, Secretary of the HTA and owner of Crafty Baby

(CT). “This law is nearly impossible for small businesses like mine, but Mattel gets let off the hook.

How is that fair?” Mattel’s stock has risen 33% in the first six months since major provisions of the

CPSIA came into effect on February 10, 2009.

The Handmade Toy Alliance again calls to Congress to amend the CPSIA to make it fairer for small

businesses by allowing the CPSC to apply risk analysis to mediate the costs of compliance without

sacrificing safety.  Small businesses should not be punished for Mattel’s mistakes.

Although the CPSC has recently defined a list of materials that are not expected to be contaminated by

lead, many materials still require testing.  “It’s fine to exempt wood, fabric, and paper from testing,”

said Cecilia Leibovitz, President of the HTA and owner of Craftsbury Kids (VT).  “But as soon as you

attach a nail, zipper, button, hinge, or a coat of paint, we’re back to having to pay for testing. Most of

our members are still very much struggling with this law.”

The Handmade Toy Alliance is a grassroots alliance of 382 retail stores, toymakers and children’s

product manufacturers from across the country who want to preserve consumer access to unique

handmade toys, clothes and all manner of small batch children’s goods in the USA.  Formed in

November of 2008 in response to the CPSIA, HTA members are parents, grandparents and consumers

who are passionate about their businesses as well as the safety of the children in their lives.  While in

support of the spirit of the law, the unintended consequences of the CPSIA have motivated members of

the HTA to work to enact change at a federal level.  More information at