Rethinking Noisy Toys — They Can Be Dangerous

by Dagmar Bleasdale on February 1, 2009

I came across an intriguingly titled article by Kevin Keck: “Babes in Toyland — I fought the toy invasion and lost” is about all the toys children amass in such a short amount of time.

Well, we don’t have that many toys in our house that I would call it an invasion (our place is simply too small), but I’m losing the fight with noisy toys in my house.

I proclaimed, “There will be no annoying, noisy, music-playing toys for my boy!” before L was born.

I grew up in Germany and don’t remember one of my toys blinking or playing music or making any kind of sound. I don’t even remember plastic toys. My brother and I played with wooden toys and Legos and dolls.

When I now visit my girlfriends in Germany who have children, I don’t notice the abundance of noisy plastic toys I see here in every household that includes small children.

Yet I have to admit that many of Landon’s toys (he is 2 years, 3 months now) are in need of expensive batteries and make some kind of noise.

In Kevin Keck’s case, all the toys his kids accumulate are from well-intentioned grandparents or friends, but in our house I am the culprit — I mostly buy them for Landon, at church sales or thrift stores. What happened?

Nowadays, it is difficult to find toys that don’t require batteries, unless you shop in specialty stores that specialize in educational, wooden toys (like the Learning Express, but who can afford shopping there all the time?) or online.

Most toys have some kind of sound or music feature. L has a lot of wooden toys, from Germany and also from here, puzzles, and probably one hundred books, but he loves his song-playing, Sesame-character guitar and his Fridge DJ.

Several of his noisy toys are VTech “educational” toys, but I don’t believe that they have any educational effect at his age.

Instead of learning his ABC’s or colors, Landon loves to push the same button twenty times and doesn’t really utilize the educational features.

I keep these toys around hoping that he is still too young and will benefit from them later. But in the back of my mind I am convinced that while they might make parents and gift-givers feel better, they don’t make a positive difference compared to other toys without sounds.

I believe you don’t end up with a smarter child just because you expose him or her to these educational toys. So why do I have them around?

It’s all about the noise — let’s face it, children love noise, be it generated by a toy or by them banging a spoon against a pot.

Several of L’s toys have a button for two sound settings, and while I constantly turn it to the low setting, he constantly switches it back to the louder setting.

So I figured there are only two things I can do: not allow those battery-operated toys, or live with them. Maybe limiting the noisy toys to one at a time is the answer, or only breaking them out for a little while once a day, to keep my sanity and to not overstimulate my child (hmm, I wonder if attention deficit disorders are partly caused by these toys . . .).

While googling “noisy toys,” I came across this important press release of the Sight & Hearing Association: a lot of these toys actually pose hearing risks! They publish a list of toys every year you should stay away from.

Another organization, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, also warns that noisy toys can be “dangerous play” — some noisy toys can expose the ear to 120 dB, the noise of a jet plane! Great, as if we moms don’t have enough to worry about already!

While searching for healthier, non-toxic, wooden toys, I found these sites I liked: Planet Happy Kids: they seem to have a great selection of creative, educational, fun toys, and they partner with some environmental groups.

Trees and Tots: they have wonderful nontoxic products (I think I will buy the nontoxic playdough) and great articles.

Another organization I want to mention: Wondering about the safety of your child’s toys? You can probably find out the rating of it on their comprehensive Website.

I know what I have on my to-do list for tomorrow: listen to every one of Landon’s noisy toys — maybe for the last time.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Pure Mothers August 14, 2009 at 5:24 AM

I am so on board with this one. My son has mostly wooden toys. He has a lot of beautiful carved wooden figures from Germany! Engleberger, Osthemier… gorgeous! He has a few noisy toys that were gifts , but not many. You may be interested in learning more about Waldorf Education. They frown on tv and noise, light-up toys. No need for bells and whistles. Open-ended toys are best and encourage imagination. My son watched a little Elmo when he was younger and was still not talking at 18 months. We took away all tv and never looked back. Today, moms tell me they think my 2 year old is “gifted”. He counts and reads to 20, almost has the alphabet down, remembers sophisticated words and uses them appropriately in almost full sentences – and he just turned 2. I am shocked every day. I don’t think he’s gifted. I think all kids can reach this potential if allowed to be bored once in while and play with toys from natural materials without the bells and whistles – and no media for a while. And IMHO, I think the natural homebirth, extended breastfeeding, fish oil and vitamins & organic diet don’t hurt either! :-)


Debbie February 6, 2009 at 3:10 AM

You can store toys and bring them out every so often. I change up my daughter’s toys every week or so. We have way too many to have them out all at once, and I find they don’t hold her interest in a mess or when there are too many to choose from. Elementary teachers do this too.


lisa February 1, 2009 at 11:18 PM


What a timely, important blog.

Our world continues to grow louder, and faster, and what we are losing are our imaginations.
Landon will be fine without the bells and whistles.


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