Monday, February 07, 2005

Not for Children Under Three

Last Friday I was making the usual rounds at Wal-mart, and I observed a rack of wooden puzzles on sale--the ones for beginning puzzle-fitters with one piece per hole and a little knob on them to grab them by.

"Ah-ha!" I thought, "What a great price! I'll get some for D1 for her birthday or next Christmas."

Then I examined them closer, and saw them plainly labeled "Not for Children Under Three."

Rats. Then I thought about it some more. In my experience with three-year-olds (which despite not having parented one, is fairly extensive), I have found few of them still find the one-piece-per-hole particularly stimulating. They are ready to move on to greater challenges, like three pieces that fit together, and leave the one-piece-per-hole for the eighteen-month-olds.

Well, maybe those little knobs were prone to falling off. No wonder they were on clearance. I sadly turned my back on the puzzles.

Later I talked it over with DOB's mom, and she pointed out that pretty much every toy is labeled "Not for Children Under Three," even if nobody but children under three would want to play with it. It's a liability issue. (Heh, and I'm the lawyer.) Come to think of it, this is true of D1's favorite toys--and I have checked them carefully for choking hazards.

If one followed all labels and advice, children, up until their third birthday, would be compelled to lie on their backs in rubberized rooms (padding is a smothering hazard!) and stare at pictures painted on the wall (with non-toxic paint).

Not only does this hyper-labeling dull our sensitivity towards genuine dangers, it overlooks the greatest hazard to children under three: parents. A few nights ago, DOB and I were kissing D1 preparatory to tucking her into bed. As I bent over to kiss her, DOB accidentally stumbled forwards, resulting in my teeth colliding with D1's head, with painful results all around.

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