Spielwarenmesse: New materials in the world of play - knowing what is safe

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New materials in the world of play - knowing what is safe

from Eva Stemmer und Jörg Meister

An increased need for safety is being exhibited in consumer behaviour around the world. People expect for materials used in toys to be authentic, genuine and safe. A fundamental distrust of industrial mass production makes consumers more open to smaller labels, natural materials and traceable production channels and types of production. A new challenge for sales people in toy shops?

The materials used in making toys come in a range that is wide and constantly increasing, starting from natural and untreated materials such as wool or untreated woods and bamboo through to fully synthetic toys and combinations of materials. 

New trends in materials are also reflective of this broad spectrum. While research into injection mouldable natural materials such as maize starch, lactic acids and lignin continues, other toys incorporate the latest material developments such as nano-coating, plasticine with new ingredients, and paintable conductive tracks. Is there a danger of new materials containing dangerous elements, even if they are not affected by the existing thresholds to date?

Made out of natural rubber: Bathing toy 'Yellow Submarine" by PlanToys

Customers want transparency

Large and small manufacturers, testing institutes, and lawmakers alike are working on developing safe materials. Over time, materials for a wide spectrum of applications have become differentiated and specialized. This is especially so for synthetic materials such as plastics and textiles, which are adapted to their respective purposes through the use of additives. However, the safety of materials for their particular areas of use is important. Accordingly, when manufacturers introduce new products to the market, standard and guideline thresholds are adapted and adherence is measured by testing institutes.

The corresponding seals to support the traceability of production paths, ingredient safety and product sustainability are taking root on the market. These are meant to help consumers to buy toys that measure up to their own safety consciousness.

There are very positive effects on the quality of toys: Consumers develop an awareness of materials and ingredients – and thanks to the public attention, manufacturers are held all the more to adherence to standards and guidelines.

New materials and their exciting properties naturally lend themselves to new playing experiences. Toy sellers are well advised to familiarize themselves with the most important ingredients and testing seals and to meet customer need for safety with suitable advice. Dealers can turn for assistance to toy associations, which remain in close contact with manufacturers and testing institutes.

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