They’re popping up all over – websites dedicated to re-selling kids toys and other gear. And in a tight economy, it sounds great….who doesn’t want to earn a few bucks by selling some cast-offs or saving big on something her kids will love?
But before you buy – or sell – here are some things to take into consideration.
1. Check recalls. Last year, over 25 million toys were recalled by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission. 25 million!! Most of these were because of lead content in the paint, and most of these were manufactured outside the U.S. The U.S. Congress has now passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, which kicked in for the most part in February 2009, and makes many of the formerly voluntary safety standards for toys mandatory.
Most retailers are very good about removing toys that have been recalled, but you can’t be so sure that individual resellers have checked for recalls before placing items for sale over eBay or Craig’s List. So, before buying anything used, check the CPSC website for recalls (http://www.cpsc.gov is their website, and you can search for recalls at http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/prerel/prerel.html). You can also sign up for their e-newsletter that will alert you for recalls (you can specify that you only want notified of infant/child recalls if you’d like).
2. Check for new safety standards. Before you buy essential baby gear second-hand, do your research. Cribs, car seats, high chairs, etc. all follow strict guidelines to make sure they are safe for baby. Make sure you check the year of manufacture of the product in question and research any more recent changes to safety standards. The rule of thumb on car seats, for instance, is that they “expire” 5 years from date of manufacture. And certainly never buy a car seat that has been in an accident, even if it appears OK. If you are unsure, err on the safe side and don’t buy it.
3. Some toys just aren’t safe, no matter where you buy them. ShopSmart.org, associated with Consumer Reports magazine, suggests never buying toys with small magnets in them (even if the magnets are contained in the toy) because of the risks of breakage and magnets being swallowed by young children or pets, which can cause intestinal damage. Squeezable, soft plastic toys (like plastic blocks or books) can be dangerous to young children who are at the “everything-goes-in-mouth” stage due to possible existence of chemicals called phalates. Only buy those that are labeled “phalates free” if you buy these at all.
4. Make sure any toys you buy are age-appropriate for your children – or other kids in the household. There is a reason toys are labeled with age appropriateness, and it’s not just for their enjoyment and ability to perform the tasks to play with and have fun with the toy. Small parts and pieces can be hazardous for young children. Even if you are intending a product to be given to an older child, chances are younger brother or sister will end up playing with it, too, so be careful of your choices. This can be difficult when you are buying from a “hand-me-down” type website, especially if there are not a lot of pictures of the product to evaluate its condition or assembly. Err on the side of caution, and all of you will have more fun without worrying about accidental swallowing….or the small pieces getting misplaced among other items.