Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Safe Baby Rattles - Wood Is Good

It's dark out!

Toys have been getting a lot of deserved attention lately as the expose of toxic plastics continues. But what about baby toys or their play things? Here's the tattle on the rattle...

Babies really can't "play" and so they are restricted to things that they can hold in their tight little grasp. And what goes in their hand, also goes in their mouth. Historically speaking, babies have been given a combination of things that rattle (to ward off evil spirits) and things to chew on (even stones strapped to sticks!) Humans have been using "natural" materials up until... plastic. My opinion is there is no safe plastic, not any number - no how- that should be sucked on or chewed on or gummed on by a baby, period. Since there is no further discussion of plastic, what's next?

There is the fancy heirloom silver or stainless steel rattle that is beautiful, easy to wash, sounds nice (usually), dents when dropped - but hey, it's an heirloom. I don't know about you, but sucking on something cold (unless you need teething comfort) gives me the shivers. It probably hurts too when you whack it up against the face.

There are also soft toy rattles, even some made out of organic fibers. My concern about those is that, given the sucking power of babies, there is a risk of small fibers breaking off and being ingested. What dyes were used? What chemicals were used for fabric processing?

That narrows the choices down to wood - good old mother nature...wood is good. Wood is receiving a revival, not just because plastic is bad, but because wood actually might be good. Research coming out of analyzing wooden cutting boards has shown that wood might contain some antibacterial properties that plastic doesn't. Makes sense Mother Nature would have some built in protection.

When looking for wooden baby rattles, look for the following properties:

1 - Soft, well sanded edges
2 - easy grip
3 - solid construction
4 - not too big
5 - not too little
6 - unfinished surface OR edible finish

Let me finish with... the finish. You might find some products that say "safe non-toxic finish". What exactly does that mean ? Nothing really, it is up to you to find out what they mean. The reason is because the two most popular finishes are food grade mineral oil and water based epoxy/polyurethane type paint. Since there is no regulation on what these are called, companies have taken upon themselves to call them non-toxic. (nice marketing idea, eh?) Food grade mineral oil (like baby oil) is nothing more than what is left after the production of crude oil (as in what we heat our homes with), like paraffin to make candles. It is no different than a baby sucking on a paraffin candle. Food grade is just a bump up from really disgusting crude oil, but make no mistake, it is still petroleum. (petrolatum when in cosmetics)

The safest option really is unfinished wood. There are finishes out their that combine vegetable oils and beeswax but rare to find. So remember when that label says "Non-Toxic", ask "How?".

After all, what would you want to suck on?

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