“People are not looking anywhere past whether or not it was made in China.” — Sara Frazee, Jewel in the Crown
Even as Congress investigates toy safety in the wake of massive recalls of toys made by Mattel and others in China, consumers appear to be taking matters into their own hands by buying more playthings made in Europe or America ― even if they cost more.
Sara Frazee, owner of Jewel in the Crown toy store in Grass Valley, Calif., carries lots of eco-friendly toys made of renewable wood and other sustainable materials. Lead-tainted paint has been the culprit in most of the toy recalls, so a spike in sales of “green” toys might be expected. But that hasn’t happened, Frazee told Playzak.
A HIGH PRICE FOR SAFETY
“People are not looking anywhere past whether or not it was made in China,” she said, adding that some of her customers are willing to pay more for toys made in other countries.
Ditto, agreed Kristina Shabagyan, co-founder of Moolka.com, a large online retailer and importer of European toys. Some of Moolka’s toys are assembled in China, but European companies manufacture the materials. “There are always parents who want to pay a little more for safe, well-made toys,” Shabagyan said.
TOYS WITH EUROPEAN SUBSTANCE
Moolka sells eco-friendly toys such as stuffed animals by sigikid, a German manufacturer that uses organic cotton and lamb’s wool. Sales of these toys have increased recently, Shabagyan said, but only because sales doubled across the board over the summer. They spiked when Mattel’s first recall was announced and went even higher after the second.
Business is also robust at HaPe International. Though the company’s Anima game sets made of sustainable bamboo were recalled for lead-paint in May by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the toy was being sold at Target, which required large shipments very quickly.
HaPe manufactured the toys for the chain in China entirely with Chinese materials, said Managing Director Maggie Qiu, but they’ve since discontinued sales to Target.
HaPe also sells toys made mostly out of European materials to specialty shops. Over the summer, the company increased its number of such retailers in the United States and Canada from 500 to 800, Qiu said.
“The bamboo we use for specialty retailer sales comes from China,” she told Playzak, adding that all of these products meet U.S. safety testing standards and paint used for the toys is produced and tested in Germany.
CONSUMERS TAKE CAUTION
A CSPC spokeswoman wouldn’t say whether going green or buying U.S.-made toys is a smart way to protect children’s safety.
“From our standpoint, it’s really important for consumers to be aware of all of our recalls,” said Nychelle Fleming. “The leading cause of toy-related death is still choking on small parts, because younger children are still putting things in their mouths.”
Amen to that, said Jennifer Fagnani, who recently celebrated her daughter Katherine’s second birthday. Fagnani, marketing director at USC University Hospital in Los Angeles, also has a 5-year-old son, Michael. She’s searching for a reliable listing of retailers who sell sustainable toys or those made outside of China.
“My problem is that I don’t know where to turn,” Fagnani said. “So my strategy going forward will be scale way back on what we buy.”
With the brand-new iBedoo line, sigikid has taken the traditional music box to the next level: Just put your iPod into the little pouch on the back of the iBedoo, and play your favorite lullabies, downloaded from sigikid's iBedoo website. The iBedoo music box is part of an entire collection of snugglies, squeakers and grasp toys, in fun colors and unique designs.
The Sliced Lunch Meats from Haba are a great addition to a child's kitchen collection. Part of Haba's line of pretend play grocery items, which includes Sliced Cheeses and Tagliatelle Noodles, the Sliced Lunch Meats give kids the chance to do what the grown-ups do every day. Mommy and Daddy buy sliced meats with groceries, so now kids, too, can buy sliced meats with their groceries. The grocery items help stimulate creative expressions and independent play, and measure 2.5" x 1.75". Launch date: 2007. — "I would say any of the Haba grocery items," said Candace Gooch, owner of At Once All Agog in Limerick, Maine, when asked by TDmonthly to suggest what little kids might like for Christmas 2007.
This cooperative game is fun for all ages. Together, two to four players have to grab the wooden pieces and stack them to match the picture on the card. But watch out! If they fall, the King gets closer to the castle. Together, we can be strong and beat the king! — This children’s game requires concentration and cooperation, which is one reason it received a TDmonthly Top Toy 2007 award. In addition, Castle Knights boasts pleasant graphics, quality wooden pieces and, perhaps many retailers’ favorite characteristic about HABA products in general authentic European appeal.
Lana Natural products are made from 100% organic cotton. Lana controls the process from the cotton fields to the home workers who sew these adorable creatures, so that kids can have confidence in the quality and the earth friendly organic certification of these products. Goosey goose is very lovable and has a neck that is just the right size for little hands to hold. Made with 100% cotton, the goose is filled with pure wool and is washable.
The soma cube is made from beautiful hard maple and finished with a light coat of polyurethane. This seven-piece puzzle features three-dimensional pieces that, together, measure about 2 ½” cubed. The solution is available on the company’s website. “The soma cube is available in single units, perfect for the small specialty store [that doesn’t have] a lot of room but wants to offer unique games,” Barbara Rainville, marketing manager for Maple Landmark, told TDmonthly. Launch date: March 2007.
NameTrain Theme Cars by MAPLE LANDMARK WOODCRAFT CO.
The NameTrain thematic cars include Birthday, American Flag and Sports theme varieties. These cars make the perfect dividers between NameTrain words and are compatible with other wooden track systems. The images are created with a durable digital imaging process that won't rub off. Customizing is available. “These cars extend the NameTrain system to customize even more. NameTrains are not available in any mass retail outlets,” Barbara Rainville, marketing manager for Maple Landmark, told TDmonthly. Launch date: June 2007. $4.90 each.
miYim Simply Organic Charlotte by GREENPOINT BRANDS
All cozy in her colorful jumper, Charlotte has her eyes closed and is ready for bedtime. Her soft hands and feet provide extra comfort, along with that fluffy tummy, to make her a perfect friend for bedtime. The concept of organic refers to the creation of something that originates in nature, a pure product from the environment. Organic products eliminate unnatural herbicides and pesticides, use biodegradable and natural fertilizers, follow crop-rotation standards and soil-management procedures, undergo specific harvesting procedures and have regulated storage procedures.
Writer's Bio: Zan Dubin Scott is president of ZDS Communications, a public relations, marketing and writing agency specializing in sustainable business, healthcare, arts and entertainment. Zan was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times for 10 years and continues to report and write for the newspaper and other publications. Read more articles by this author