When you become a parent, you see the world in an entirely different light. While that may seem heartwarming and sentimental, it does have a dark side as well. That is, you might begin to see the world as full of horrible things that could harm your little one.
Because of this, most manufacturers are required to put content and safety information on the labels of their wares. You might have seen them before when buying your little one a stuffed bear or a bag of chips.
To help you learn more about these labels, we’ll run you through labels you might want to check for in toys and other baby things including cribs and strollers. After that, we’ll go through key entries to look out for in the nutritional facts in food.
15 Recommended Age (Toys and Things)
These days, toy stores are filled with a variety of options for your child’s entertainment. This includes kites, stuffed toys, rag dolls, dolls that talk, cars, train sets and even video games. Some of these toys, however, may not be appropriate for kids of certain ages.
You can take a peek at the label to see the manufacturer’s recommended age range for the toy. This usually takes in consideration how the toy can fit into your child’s developmental age. A six-month-old for instance will not be able to appreciate stacking blocks to make small buildings as much as a one-year-old can. Labels such as these, however, also take in consideration your child’s safety, which we’ll talk more of in a bit.
14 Warning Labels (Toys and Things)
Close to the age recommendation, you’ll likely find a warning label. In America, this is required by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008. The label can include the reason why the toy must be restricted only to children of a certain age. In many cases, it will warn you of small parts in the toy that could become a choking hazard for babies who love putting things in their mouths.
It can also include warnings for other hazards such as sharp edges or balloons. Many items also include warnings for their specific packaging. Cling wrap and plastic bags, in particular, can be hazardous to young children. It’s important to be aware of all these hazards so you don’t inadvertently give your child something that’s inappropriate.
13 Cleaning Instructions (Toys and Things)
One day, the toy is likely to get so soiled that you will need to clean it. Many toys will include labels on the box or the tag with cleaning instructions. There may be parts on the toy that can get dislodged or damaged when cleaned a certain way. Some toys may require dry cleaning, while others may be able to handle a light wash but not a soak in water.
Toys made of cloth, in particular, will have labels that are similar to those on your clothes. Make sure to follow these instructions so that they will stay safe for your baby and last longer.
12 Toxicity Warnings (Toys and Things)
Make sure to review all the items you give to your children for any toxicity warnings. Ideally, they should have the label indicating that it conforms to ASTM D-4236, which means that they have been reviewed and labelled by a toxicologist. This is most especially important when it comes to art materials such as crayons and paint, as certain pigments and dyes may be dangerous for your child’s health.
11 Phthalate and BPA Check (Toys and Things)
One thing you may want to check for in the ingredients lists of nearly everything from lotions to toys to plastic bottles and pacifiers are phthalates and Bisphenol-A or BPA. Phthalates and BPA are chemicals that are added to plastic to make them more flexible and durable. However, they tend to leach out of the plastic over time and may enter your child’s body.
Scientists have found that prolonged exposure to phthalates or BPA can damage many human body organs, including the liver, kidneys and reproductive organs. They’re also associated with allergies and even breast cancer. There are quite a number of them, so you might want to check them against ingredients or materials lists of common items in your home. Even better, look for those that are labeled BPA and phthalate free.
10 The CE Symbol or Other Regulation Symbols (Toys and Things)
In order to ensure that toys are truly safe, a multitude of other agencies continue to monitor the safety of these products. A toy or product that passes the standards of certain agencies are marked with specific symbols.
This includes the very familiar CE symbol, which stands for Conformité Européenne or European Conformity. Having this symbol means that the product complies with standards for that specific product set by the European Union. Another familiar one is the lion in the triangle for toys checked for safety and quality by the British Toy and Hobby Association.
9 The Green Dot (Toys and Things)
The green dot is another regulatory symbol, but we’ve separated it as it’s more specific to the manufacturer’s recovery and recycling of products and their packaging. This ensures that less waste is dumped into the environment, overall making the world a better place to live for your child.
You may see this as a circle with a dark green and light green arrow crossing each other inside. In black-and-white packaging, the symbol is recognizable as well albeit without the green color.
8 Servings and Calories (Food)
Now, we delve into the world of food packaging. Food can be tricky to monitor because while improperly stored or prepared food may have short-term effects, imbalanced nutrition can have long-term effects as well.
First off, we need to take a good, long look at the nutritional facts. Probably the first thing listed is the serving size and the servings per container. If, for example, the serving size for a bag of biscuits is six pieces, but the entire bag itself contains twelve pieces, it will have two servings per containers. It’s good to take note of this before taking a look at the calories. You may think that a package has only 150 calories, but if you miss out on seeing that it has three servings per container you may not realize that your kid has just eaten 450 calories in one go.
7 Macronutrients (Food)
Macronutrients are nutrients that we need to eat in relatively large amounts to stay alive and healthy. You’ll be very familiar with them: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Now, carbs and fats may get a bad rap with the diet fad folk, but your growing child needs a healthy balance of these three so she can grow healthy and strong. You may want to look up the ideal balance for your child’s specific age.
Roughly, though, about 50-60% of a school-age child’s energy should come from carbohydrates, 20-30% from proteins and for fats it’s about 10-30%. Do note that fat packs a punch, meaning that there’s more energy in every gram of it compared to proteins and carbs. So while the percentage may seem high, it only actually translates to a little bit of it.
6 Fiber (Food)
Fiber is actually a type of carbohydrate, but since it’s not a source of energy and has other important functions in the body, we’re discussing it separately. It’s always worth looking into the nutritional facts and ensure that your child is eating enough fiber daily.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. The soluble variety can help decrease levels of cholesterol and glucose. On the other hand, insoluble fiber is important in maintaining good bowel movements. Since we eat plenty of processed foods nowadays, some kids don’t get adequate amounts of fiber in their diet. It is therefore always worth it to choose high-fiber foods.
5 Micronutrients (Food)
Micronutrients are nutrients that we need in small amounts. These, however, are essential in regulating our body functions. You probably know them better as vitamins and minerals. The best way to get them is to feed your child a variety of foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. If, however, these are not available to you at the moment, you may find it useful to check the nutritional facts for foods that are naturally high or fortified in nutrients your child needs.
4 Ingredients List (Food)
It’s important to know what’s going into the packaged food that you buy. Fortunately, producers are required to print an ingredients list onto their product’s packaging. These lists are made in order of how much of that ingredient is in the food. This means that a list that has sugar somewhere in the top three is probably not a great idea for your child, although you may want to cross check this with the nutrition facts.
3 Organic Label (Food)
If you wanted to go the extra mile to ensure that you avoid any harmful chemicals in your child’s food, you may have thought of looking for those labelled “organic.” This means that the produce used was grown without artificial fertilizers and pesticides. But not so fast. Just because it has organic on the label doesn’t mean that it’s totally organic.
If you want food that’s completely organic, look for the “100% organic” label. Products labeled “organic” only need to be 95% organic to pass USDA standards. Products labeled “made with organic ingredients,” on the other hand, need only be 70% organic. Some other products will say that they’re made with organic tomatoes, for instance. However, this doesn’t guarantee that the rest of the ingredients in the list will be organic.
2 Pasteurization (Food)
When choosing milk and dairy products for your child, get only those made from pasteurized milk. Pasteurization is the process of heating milk to ensure that bacteria and other infectious organisms are killed. This is important because potentially dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria could still be lurking in the milk, waiting to wreak havoc. The risks for infection are so high that the FDA has released an information guide to inform the public that unpasteurized milk is a serious health risk.
1 Allergy Information (Food)
Finally, you should check all food labels for the presence of allergens. This is especially if your child has allergies or begins to develop symptoms that are similar to that of food allergies. While some of the allergens will be directly apparent in the ingredient’s list, others may be more subtle. For instance, food that does not contain peanuts in itself may still contain ingredients that were processed in a facility used for peanuts. They may therefore still have trace amounts that are enough to cause a serious allergic reaction. So before you give your child any treat at all, make sure to check the label.