Lately, a commercial has aired regularly on a popular Richmond radio station. It goes something like this: “Going to another baby shower? Are you going to give the same, tired gift of a basket full of baby items? Why not try something new? A series of DVD’s to help the baby learn to read before they can even talk!” Despite the allure of such a promise, recent research suggests that the promise is probably too good to be true, as discussed in this article. So it may not be a great gift to bring to a baby shower after all.
It is a confusing world out there for consumers seeking baby items, especially for first-time parents who are bombarded with advice about what babies “need.” It is easy to walk into a store and choose items that are cute, appealing, listed as “most popular” by the baby registry guide or have gotten rave reviews from friends. But perhaps the three most important questions are: 1) Is it necessary (this article from about.com nicely illustrates the bare essentials for a new baby)? 2) Is it safe? and 3) Will it help the baby, developmentally? Here are a few websites to help you navigate the treacherous terrain of shopping for baby stuff.
www.HealthyChildren.org The first step to choosing items that are safe and healthy for your baby is first understanding health and safety concerns of infants. HealthyChildren.org is a project of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The website provides accurate, research-based information about infant health and developmental stages. Here is an example of advice for 8-12 month olds’ language development:
“Picture books can enhance this entire process by reinforcing her budding understanding that everything has a name. Choose books with large board, cloth, or vinyl pages that she can turn herself. Also look for simple but colorful illustrations of things your child will recognize.”
You can use such information to guide you when you are selecting toys or products that are appropriate for your baby’s developmental stage.
The Consumer Protection Safety Council (http://www.cpsc.gov) It seemed that 2010 was the year of recalls for baby items. Massive recalls of cribs, infant formula and other baby products flooded the media, lead by the efforts of the Consumer Protection Safety Council(CPSC). The CPSC’s mission is to protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction. At their website, you can learn about recalls and sign up for immediate alerts (www.recalls.gov). You can also report a problem you have with a product on the new website www.saferproducts.gov.
HealthyStuff.org has tested thousands of toys and children’s products for certain chemicals that may be toxic when they build up in kids’ bodies in large enough quantities including lead, cadmium, arsenic, and mercury. The website lists the toys they have tested and assigns each a safety level of low, medium or high threat. These test results are intended to help consumers with the information they need to make better choices when purchasing toys and other children’s products.
If, after all of your research, you are still at a loss for what to bring to the baby shower, skip a material gift and donate to a college savings account. By the time that special baby is college age, the cost to attend college may be astronomical. The 529 college savings plans are a great way to save money for college. Here are the top benefits of 529 plans from www.savingforcollege.com, and to learn more about the Virginia529 plan you can visit the website at http://www.virginia529.com/. It’s a safe bet that the parents-to-be and the baby (in about 18 years) will love it!