Useful resources for toy hunters

Toy Action Guide

An annual project of TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment), the guide helps parents make informed choices and support nonviolent, healthy play. Write: TRUCE, PO Box 441261, Somerville, MA 02144. Web site includes list of recommended toys, plus those to watch out for. Also has tips for make-your-own gifts. Web site: www.wheelock.edu/truce

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio

Book recommends toys, books, videos, and software that have been independently tested by child-development experts and approved by kids. Helpful tips on what to expect of children at various ages, and ideas for inexpensive alternatives. Excellent organization and clear categories. Drawbacks: Not as up-to-date on toys and software arriving in stores after the book went to press. Parents may have a hard time finding items by smaller toy makers. Book: $12

The Lion and Lamb Project

Publishes "The Dirty Dozen" list of violent items to avoid. This year, in partnership with the toy company Zany Brainy, the project is sponsoring violent-toy trade-ins. A child mails in a violent toy and receives an educational one (value $15) to replace it or a coupon for 20 percent off a new toy. The online program runs through Dec. 24. Drawback: Few parents will want to spend time mailing toys or filling out the survey, nor will kids want to wait for three to six weeks to get the replacement toy. Web site: www.ZanyBrainy.com

American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA)

Independent store owners provide an intriguing list of high-quality toys. More than 400 stores around the country participated. Write: ASTRA, 525 S.W. Fifth Street, Suite A, Des Moines, IA 50309-4501. Web site: www.astratoy.org

WATCH's 10 Worst Toy List

Annual list published by lawyer and toy-safety advocate James Swartz of things he believes pose hazards to children. Manufacturers are quick to point out that none of the toys he cites has caused injury. Web site: www.swartzlaw.com/toy

Child magazine's 1999 Best Toys

Roundup of toys categorized by age groups. Drawback: List is somewhat suspect, because the magazine's advertisers are disproportionately represented. However, parents will easily find these toys in any national chain store. Web site: www.childmagazine.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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