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All I Want for Presents Are A Few Good Ideas

"Did you see the recall?" husband asked first thing yesterday morning as the boys sat at their art table, meticulously putting Perler beads on templates to make shapes. "Where were those beads made?"

The conversation happened no more than 10 minutes after I posted the latest Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls list in yesterday's blog. Unfortunately, the box didn't answer his question. The company is in California; the product is distributed via a company in England. But no "made in" label anywhere.

The boys' Perler bead creations.

The beads have been nothing short of an obsession with the boys since Saturday. The box so excited them that they willingly traded nearly all their Halloween loot for them. Five-year-old insisted that a friend come to our house on Saturday, just so they could make bead objects together. Thankfully for us, the Perlers aren't one of the 4.2 million Aqua Dots recalled this week.

And now that Perler has posted information about what's used in the beads (LDPE, a food-grade plastic), that they are manufactured in California from U.S.-obtained materials, and that the company routinely tests the product, I'm feeling more comfortable about them.

And so, a container of Perler beads is one of my toy recommendations for the holidays. The Oppenheim Toy Portfolio has many others. The childrens' toy reviewer routinely issues an annual toy guide. But because of all the problems with toys this year, Oppenheim tested a batch of each toy on its award list for lead before recommending that toy and has a slimmed down list of winners.

What's on your toy shopping list for the holidays? Which toys, games or software are favorites in your house that you'd recommend to the rest of us?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  November 9, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
Previous: Parent-Teacher Conferences | Next: Domestic Discord


First, we go for wooden and cloth toys. They're a lot harder to mess up than plastic. We also only buy toys made in the US or Europe - mostly Germany.

And, when all that fails, we make our own. :)

Posted by: KR | November 9, 2007 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Anything from The magic Cabin. (I pormise, I don't work there :)

Lots of wooden toys, very creative, made in the US or Germany mostly. I'm not opposed to plastic toys in general, but after trying to round up and check every single Polly Pocket in the house, I'm staying far away for a while!

Posted by: CC | November 9, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

I loved Perler beads as a kid- my kids, however, feel differently. Santa brings a small pack every year and every year around February after they have been dumped and ground into the playroom carpet for the 600th time and no projects have been made, I throw them out...sigh

My kids all love art supplies. Paper, watercolors and markers will keep them happy for hours. Add scissors and glue you can get a whole day out of them.

You should check out the MindWare catalog (or website). We got a few wooden pattern puzzles and games from them last year that all 5 girls (and every adult at our christmas party) played with for hours. They have some great stuff.

Fashion Angels are pretty cool for older girls- it is a kit with a large cardboard paperdoll, fabric, glitter, glue and patterns for kids to make clothes. My girls love to play fashion designer.

Posted by: michelewilson | November 9, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Puppets. As a group present for my 3 nephews (when they were all a bit younger), I bought about 10 puppets of varying coolness (i.e. - some plain, some expensive, some with funky appendages).

According to my sister in law, they are still a hit with the youngest one...who is using them to play with my toddler aged niece.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | November 9, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I have several National Wildlife Federation subscriptions for the kids in my life -- Baby Animals, Your Big Backyard, and Ranger Rick. The gift that gives year-round and doesn't require me to ship anything either! Plus, it's a tax deduction.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | November 9, 2007 9:16 AM | Report abuse

I loved Ranger Rick. Board games are good too. Especially for winter.

Posted by: ducky11 | November 9, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

"LDPE, a food-grade plastic"

Er . . . does this mean it is a plastic that is OK to use in food? Do we have plastic as an ingredient in our food? This is news to me-- very scary news. Glad that the Perler beads are non-toxic, but the idea of plastic in my food totally gross me out. I won't be getting beads for my preschooler since we have a baby in the house that will be toddling around and putting things in her mouth before too long. Big brother will understand that some toys are off limits for a few years. I'm thinking that we will give "Experiences" rather than toys-- movie tickets, pony rides in the country, ice skating party with friends, etc. We have a tiny house with no room for additional toys.

Posted by: baby-work | November 9, 2007 10:57 AM | Report abuse

"Er . . . does this mean it is a plastic that is OK to use in food? Do we have plastic as an ingredient in our food?"

I'm not a chemist or a pharmacist, but capsules (thinking amoxicillin and other anti-biotics, Advil and the like, etc.) have to be some sort of edible "plastic", no? Then again, on a quick search there's actually a pharma grade plastic, so maybe not...Looks like food grade plastic is your cooking bags, bottles, and plastic wraps.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | November 9, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

"I'm not a chemist or a pharmacist, but capsules (thinking amoxicillin and other anti-biotics, Advil and the like, etc.) have to be some sort of edible "plastic", no?"

I believe those capsules are made out of gelatin, aren't they?

My DD loves all the vintage fisher-price stuff that I played with in the late 70s. This year, I'm thinking of getting her a little gymnastics mat so she can practice her headstands and somersaults someplace other than the couch, and I'm also thinking of a tricycle. I also like the stuff from magic cabin.

Posted by: reston, va | November 9, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Legos. And I share with baby-work a belief in the value of "experiences" and encourage my far-flung family to give my kids gifts like museum memberships, ski lessons and contributions toward summer camp instead of holiday or birthday gifts that I don't have room for in my condo. Easy to wrap and gives us a reason to talk about distant family members at other times of the year!

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 9, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Posted by baby-work @ November 9, 2007 10:57 AM:

"Er . . . does this mean it is a plastic that is OK to use in food?"

No. Food grade plastic is plastic that is safe to use to store food, meaning it won't react chemically with any of the normal things you use in food preperation or storage. This makes it safer in the event that it is ingested because it is less likely to react with the organic compoounds found in the human body (Since most of them are found in our food as well, no surprise there).

LDPE is specifically used in things like tupperware, cling film, and those thigns they use to hold sixpacks of soda together. Make no mistake, it's not designed to be edible, but if you do eat it, it won't chemically poison you.

Also, I like books for holiday gifts, pleasant, entertaining, reusable/recyclable, and non toxic.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 9, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Anonymous posting at 12:06 was me.

Posted by: David S | November 9, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

video games!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 9, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

"I have several National Wildlife Federation subscriptions for the kids in my life -- Baby Animals, Your Big Backyard, and Ranger Rick."

Glad to hear these are good, I just ordered them for my great niece and nephew. Besides the subscriptions, they are getting clothes from me. I will let others worry about the toys (they get plenty).

Posted by: CJB | November 9, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I found a toothbrush that plays "We're All in This Together" from High School Musical. Home run!

Posted by: Anonymous | November 9, 2007 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Do we have plastic as an ingredient in our food? This is news to me-- very scary news.


Food grade plastic, as I remember it from high school chemistry, means that the plastic is guaranteed to be safe to ingest. For instance, your yogurt tubs or margarine tubs which are different qualities than, let's say, clips used in your car. I remember the term means something like no dyes you can't eat.

I dunno, what does everyone else remember from high school?

Posted by: DCer | November 9, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Legos, by the way, are still made in Europe as I understand it. Of course you pay for that, but this year, who won't?

Posted by: DCer | November 9, 2007 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the clarification about food grade plastics! What a relief!

Posted by: baby-work | November 9, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

With a lot of panic and massive checking of the recall date codes, we are giving my daughter Dora's magical castle. I checked every single date code and none of them were the ones being recalled. She is also getting a holiday Little people set, some strawberry shortcake dolls, American doll clothes and furniture, and a bike. But it was very nerve wracking when the first huge Mattel recall took place. But after sending away for the brochure, I was relieved to learn that we did not have any of the recalled products in our home. I signed up for that recall list and I am amazed how many products get recalled all the time. And usually you would have no idea about the recall. Oh of course we give books and DVDs.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 9, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Books, books, books, books to grow into, movie gift cards, guitar hero and dance dance revolution, music, tickets to a circus or big event coming up, savings bonds, and some chocolate.

Posted by: Liz D | November 9, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Is Olestra considered a food-grade plastic? It's a plastic. It's used in food and, should you buy a product with Olestra, you will eat it. It's non-digestible. How is that categorized?

Posted by: DCer | November 9, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Wow foamgnome. Do you think your daughter is getting enough stuff for Christmas?

If you throttled back a bit you might not have to panic so much about recalls.

Posted by: fake99 | November 9, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

probably books and some puzzles. And some puzzle books, because she's clever at that sort of thing. Maybe some new paints. I'm asking the grandparents to look at a DS Lite for the family with Nintendogs because we can't get a dog in our apartment, and DD loves animals and video games. But they'll probably give shoes and clothes.

Posted by: Kat | November 10, 2007 6:59 AM | Report abuse

is this blog about anything other than recalls and consumer purchases? Other than the wonderful occasional column from the dad of the special-needs kid, it seems as if every day is recall-recall-recall-buying stuff-buying stuff-buying stuff. It's a shame that some parents think parenting is something to be purchased and not lived.

Posted by: MN | November 12, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

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