Material safety for small children?
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  1. #1
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    Default Material safety for small children?

    I became a grandfather a couple of months ago when my oldest daughter gave birth to twin girls. One of the first thing that comes to my mind is that now I have grandkids to make stuff for. I've got a couple of simple designs in mind that would be appropriate for their ages in a couple of months (so I have time to figure this out as well as get it done).

    Where I run in to a problem is figuring out just what materials will be safe to make them out of considering that they will spend a good deal of time being sucked/gummed, etc.

    After doing a LOT of reading about what not to use, I finally come across references that PBT or Polybutylene Terephthalate is what gets used mostly in modern kid's toys. Great now I just look for a source for raw materials. None of the PBT I found listed it for being used as baby toys ( go figure ) and many had different additives for different chemical or physical properties.

    I ended up ordering a 2-1/5" x 12" rod (refered to as Hydex 4101 from PBT Plastic Rods, .250 to 10.0 inch diameter, Polybutylene terephthalate as this material was listed as "FDA/NSF/3A Compliant" and was also relatively expensive.

    Sorry for the long intro to the question but, does anyone have experience with this sort of thing? Have I made a decent choice or will it only be fit hanging up in the shop? I haven't dealt with the fragile little carpet slugs for well over twenty years and I am trying to be extra careful because they aren't my kids but my new grand daughters.

    Thanks for any input.

    -Ron

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    I guess I would just use wood.

    My wives grandfather made all sorts of things for the kids and we just passed them along to a new set of kids.
    Wood machines perfectly and lasts forever- I am not sure there is any compelling argument to wonder about which toxicity profile is acceptable in plastics when you can just use wood and let them gnaw away..

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    Congratulations!

    For those that haven't done such research, here's a reference:

    The Types of Plastics Families Should Avoid - The New York Times

    Now it's not just what material, but what shapes to make. I'd think large, gently curved surfaces, things that can't poke a baby's eyes while being waved around. Perhaps well secured mobiles that would go over a crib would be a good start, where they can be reached by raising an arm, but never loose to become a contact risk.

    When the kids get older, toys that can be put together might be fun. Frankly, a large plastic nut and bolt set teaches something about geometry and mechanics, and parts can be large enough not to be a swallow risk. Then puzzles, especially if customized by starting with a print of family members or a favorite animal pasted on first.

    If you can find safe foams, that opens up a lot of possibilities for dolls or flexy-shapes, sort of like balloon animals but from foam.

    Let us know what you wind up with.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trboatworks View Post
    I am not sure there is any compelling argument to wonder about which toxicity profile is acceptable in plastics when you can just use wood and let them gnaw away..
    Heh - there are some woods with resins that are harmful, and you do have to worry about splinters. Not to mention thrown objects with sharp corners and such.

    To heck with toys - just swaddle them up until they're 20yo or so...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Milland View Post
    Heh - there are some woods with resins that are harmful, and you do have to worry about splinters. Not to mention thrown objects with sharp corners and such.
    Sure so that means don't use Purple Heart or old heart pine milled into thin sticks- it doesn't mean run to plastics as "Safe"..

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    Material is one thing, design is another.

    Small ball shaped piece get's broken off, and is a choking hazard.

    This is only one of a endless list of problems.

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    Ma gave us gourds, she had pops file and sand the stem smooth, big enough to slobber on but not small enough to fit in the mouth and she grew them herself

    Later we had blocks made from twp 1/2 gallon milk boxes with the tops cut off and one shoved inside another

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    Wife taught Headstart for decades. The woods of choice is Baltic birch plywood, poplar and alder. Pencils are made of cedar supposed to not splinter when chewed.
    Studies show bare wood kills germs as well or better then any treated plastic. wood cutting boards are more sanitary then plastic.
    Silver and copper kill germs on contact. There is a reason kids get a silver spoon.
    My Mom lived to be 97 and 3/4. she still had some toy elephants from her childhood. Made of cast lead with paint chewed off. So do not over think this.
    Bill D

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    When my nephew was teething I gave him lemons which he liked until he got his first tooth and bit into one and tasted it.
    Bill D

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    Quote Originally Posted by Milland View Post
    Congratulations!

    For those that haven't done such research, here's a reference:

    The Types of Plastics Families Should Avoid - The New York Times

    Now it's not just what material, but what shapes to make. I'd think large, gently curved surfaces, things that can't poke a baby's eyes while being waved around. Perhaps well secured mobiles that would go over a crib would be a good start, where they can be reached by raising an arm, but never loose to become a contact risk.

    When the kids get older, toys that can be put together might be fun. Frankly, a large plastic nut and bolt set teaches something about geometry and mechanics, and parts can be large enough not to be a swallow risk. Then puzzles, especially if customized by starting with a print of family members or a favorite animal pasted on first.

    If you can find safe foams, that opens up a lot of possibilities for dolls or flexy-shapes, sort of like balloon animals but from foam.

    Let us know what you wind up with.

    Interesting article, thanks.


    I did consider wood at first but that brought up the same kind of issues - Wood Allergies and Toxicity | The Wood Database and, of course, any kind of finish used would open up a pandora's box of issues. Personally, I would love to use food safe stainless or whatever titanium they make hips, joints, etc out of but I think they would be a little heavy for them at this point and when they got bigger I don't think their parents would appreciate having "Grandpa's toys" tossed through the television screen.

    That's why I turned to plastics/polycarbonates and the ugly learning curve. The article Milland posted was an excellent example in that it tells you what to stay away from but not what is acceptable. Now, what I am planning to start with will be my take on something called a "Oloid Wobbler" that I read about in a home shop mag a couple of months ago. In it's basic for it is a very simple toy, easy for them to hang on to but no way I can think of where they could get hurt by them. When they push it across the kitchen floor it should roll in a wobbly fashion that I hope they find fascinating.

    Here is an example that I pulled off the web:



    Now, I could mill this out of one piece but think it would be more cost effective to start with the 2-1/2" diameter rod that I ordered.

    Oh, and believe it or not, I'm not over-thinking this (even though it might appear so). Personally, I would likely cut something out of an old boot for the kids to play with BUT my daughter is still in "hyper alert mode" on the twins and I'm not planning to fight with that as I can't blame her.

    The girls were born about a month and a half premature and had to stay in ICU for well over a month. One of the girls apparently didn't have enough room to stretch out so was born club-footed and horribly bow legged. The docs are in the process of fixing this but it's kind of hard to watch as she been fitted with different sets of casts, connected leg to leg, for the last five weeks and last week they did an operation where they cut her achilles tendons so her feet would reposition. (FYI - This has been freakin' expensive. So far there bills add up to well over a million dollars for the girls.)

    So, that's where I am at with this. I'll continue to try and find more information on materials but will start the build once the plastic rod shows up (and I will post pics).

    Thanks much for the comments guys.

    -Ron

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    Maple is the other common wood for kids toys. Shellac is a good finish nontoxic, used to coat pills. Not terably durable but easily renewed by brushing on alcohol to remelt it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MetalCarnage View Post
    The girls were born about a month and a half premature and had to stay in ICU for well over a month. One of the girls apparently didn't have enough room to stretch out so was born club-footed and horribly bow legged. The docs are in the process of fixing this but it's kind of hard to watch as she been fitted with different sets of casts, connected leg to leg, for the last five weeks and last week they did an operation where they cut her achilles tendons so her feet would reposition. (FYI - This has been freakin' expensive. So far there bills add up to well over a million dollars for the girls.)

    -Ron
    Oooch. Sorry that they're getting a tough start, but at least they've got access to good care (and for the parent's sake, I hope good insurance!).

    That wobble toy looks good. Did you check the polyethylene family for safety? Lots of use in food service, tough, not too bad to machine with sharp cutters, and relatively cheap.

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    Polyethylene would be my pick. It's about as inert as a plastic can get. It is also very resistant to acids so if they swallow it and it passes through they will be fine. No fillers or colorants for best safety.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidScott View Post
    Polyethylene would be my pick. It's about as inert as a plastic can get. It is also very resistant to acids so if they swallow it and it passes through they will be fine. No fillers or colorants for best safety.
    Yes. Polypropylene too. More generally, whatever outfits like Rubbermaid make cutting boards and food containers put of will be OK. Cutting boards can be used as a cheap source of raw stock in small quantities.

    As will ordinary hardwoods like maple and oak and birch and poplar - these have been used for and by children forever, long before civilization emerged.

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    I wouldn’t spend too much time on it.
    You know they’re just gonna play with the box it comes in.

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    Thanks guys, that helps a lot and it's backed up by this article that I just came across: What Plastics Are Used to Make Toys? | How To Adult

    You've given me a few more options on toys for the "carpet critters".

    -Ron

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    I’m certainly a fan of wood for toys myself, plus there are child safe ( I suppose human safe) dyes,
    Mark

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    I think the plastics to worry about are cheap flexible commodity plastics. Vinyls especially

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    I could not find anything but there are ancient stone or metal bowls that spin back and forth similar to the link. I made simple toys from doughnut magnets thread onto a spark plug wire. Wire ends attached into a piece of wood to form a vertical loop.
    Bill D

    RattleBack - Will spin in only one direction - Watch as it stops itself & reverses direction! - YouTube

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    Along with figuring out which plastics to avoid, I recommend staying away from magnets. Children have been known to swallow small magnets and then die from infections when the magnets stick together through the intestinal walls.


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