The stress of finding all the toys on Jimmy's Christmas list should be enough to worry about this holiday season, but continuous recalls for toys containing toxic amounts of lead add more weight to gift choices this year. In June, the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission and the RC2 Corp. announced a voluntary recall of 1.5 million toy trains, vehicles and play sets from the top-selling Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway collection. The recalled toys contain lead paint, which could be toxic if ingested by young children. Just two months later, Mattel, the popular toy maker of Barbie dolls and Hot Wheels cars, recalled nearly one million toys because they too were covered in lead paint. So how do parents keep kids happy and healthy this holiday season? Ahwatukee Foothills toy store owner Janet Hoo has four things a parent should know in order to buy a safe toy. "First, look at the standards," Hoo said. "Make sure they are manufactured to EN 71 (European toy standard) or ASTM 963 (U.S. toy standard). Look for these standards printed on the box, not for 'Made in China.'" According to Mattel, all recalled toys were made by a contract manufacturer in China, the same country producing poisonous pet food and dangerous car tires sold in the U.S. Hoo's store, Brilliant Sky Toys and Books, does not sell any Mattel toys. "I don't carry Mattel because their toys are not manufactured to a published standard," she said. "It has nothing to do with the recall. Would I recommend buying a toy from China? Absolutely. The question is how is it manufactured?" Of all the toys in the world, 85 percent are manufactured in China. All toys shipped to Europe must meet the EN 71 standard, which evaluates lead, mercury and age standards of a toy. However, in the U.S. manufacturing to a standard is optional. "I have 196 vendors on my floor and every one created their toys to a published standard," Hoo said. "But just because it is manufactured to that standard doesn't mean it is made in that country. To this date we haven't had any recalls to toys that conform to these standards." Second, Hoo recommends parents trust the age on the box of the toy. "There is a reason for an age," she said. "Toys for children under three almost never have paint on them." Third, Hoo said to pay attention to the applied application of the toy. "If the box says do not microwave, don't put it in the microwave," she said. "If it says don't put it in the dishwasher, then don't put it in the dishwasher. The toy could be leaking chemicals." Lastly, when buying toys for children of different ages, assign certain places toys can be played with. "If a 6-year-old's toy contains paint, tell them to play with and keep it in their room, away from younger siblings," Hoo said. As for the best toy choices for kids today, Hoo said to keep it simple and go back to the basics. "I have parents come in and tell me they want to buy a $200 toy and I tell them don't do it because your child won't play with it," she said. "Let the child pick the toy. Give the kids an hour to look around, and then let them write down what they like. It might surprise you." Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or at cfrayer@aztrib.com.

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