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Are Handmade Toys Safe? What to look for to check a handmade soft toy is safe for babies
- Gaynor Humphrey
There is no denying that there is something very special about a handmade toy. It’s not only that a handmade toy involves a lot of skill but by its very nature it is unique as no two handmade toys are ever exactly the same.
When we at Best Years Ltd talk about a handmade toy we are talking about soft toys, so everything from a baby comforter to a crochet or knitted toy to a handmade teddy. We don’t have the same expertise outside of baby toys so this blog is purely about soft toys for babies.
Although handmade toys are wonderful there is a slight problem that most handmade toys are made by people with little or no understanding of toy safety regulations. We know that people scoff at the paperwork and joke about “health and safety” but the safety of baby toys is obviously an absolute priority which is why it is a legal requirement that all toys, or products which could be perceived as a toy, must conform to toy safety regulations. All handmade toys should be CE marked in the same way as factory toys, ie they must have a label with the CE mark on it although this could be sewed on to the toy or be just be a paper label attached to the toy. This CE mark shows that the maker understands safety regulations and their responsibilities when making the toy including having supporting paperwork to show how the toy was made and where the materials used were bought from. This is called Technical Files and Declaration of Conformity.
If you are buying a toy at a summer fair or fete, then it is worth asking the maker whether they have these. If nothing else it will be a good indicator of how much knowledge they have about toy safety and how seriously they take it. However if it is your mum’s neighbour who has made you baby a doll then it is very unlikely that they will have any idea about CE regulations.
So what checks can you do on a handmade toy to ensure that its safe?
The fact that someone gives you something so personal is very touching but before you give it to your baby please check the following things.
- The final thing which happens to all of our toys before they are packed up to come out to us is that they go through a very large magnetic machine. This is to ensure that there is no chance that any sewing needle or part of a sewing needle may have broken off and been left in the toy. If you are given a handmade soft toy you can either do a fingertip search, ie systematically touch every part of the soft toy or doll, squeezing and pinching to see if you can feel any foreign object in the stuffing. Alternatively you can buy a super strong magnet and run it over the toy. Or both!
- Small parts. This is all about identifying any potential choking hazard. The most common small part is plastic eyes. We would strongly recommend removing plastic eyes and replacing them by your own hand sewn eyes. When we make toys any small part will be subject to a pull test, effectively we hang the equivalent of 2 bags of flour on to the eyes and see if they come out. If you really feel that you don’t want to remove the plastic eyes you could try to do this at home, but we would definitely recommend just cutting them out. Other small parts could be sequins, decorative accessories such as earrings or belts on the toy or even badges. Its best to remove anything which could potentially be pulled off the toy.
- Toxic dyes. Whereas we are always very worried about small parts we are less worried about toxic dyes as long as the toy has been made recently and from materials which have been made recently. Many toys in the 1970s and 1980s inadvertedly contained some level of toxic chemicals so if the toy is old it is best to put it aside and use it as a nursery decoration rather than a toy. If the toy has been made quite recently, and from materials which have been made recently then the likelihood of it containing toxic dyes is minimum. One word of caution, if the toy has had a smell artificially added, ie strawberry scented, then we would be cautious about giving it to a baby as these scents have been shown to have toxic elements.
- Again, as long has the toy has been made recently this should not be a problem. Its difficult to test for flammability without setting your toy on fire so our only advice is to ensure handmade toys are kept well away from any potential sources of fire!
This advice is not meant to scare you, or put you off buying or accepting handmade toys, but hopefully gives you an idea of how you can be confident when giving a handmade toy to your baby.
We strongly recommend that if you make soft toys then you should talk to Trading Standards about toy safety as they are both knowledgeable and helpful
All of our Pebble toys are hand made, and while each and everyone of them is unique they are all designed and made to exceed any safety criteria so if you want a handmade toy you know is safe then simply chose a Pebble fair trade toy!