July 31, 2018

Office of the Secretary
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
4330 East West Highway, Room 820
Bethesda, MD 20814

RE: Comments from The Toy Association, Inc. regarding CPSC Draft Guidelines for Determining Age Appropriateness of Toys (2018), Docket No. CPSC-2018-0006

The Toy Association™, Inc. appreciates the opportunity to comment on the draft revision to CPSC’s Guidelines for Determining Age Appropriateness of Toys as the industry and is uniquely impacted by these guidelines and holds significant expertise and experience in this area.

Toy safety is the top priority for the industry and the Association and its members have long been leaders in toy safety, dating back to the 1930s. Our efforts include leading the development of the first comprehensive toy safety standard – which was later adopted as ASTM F963 and became a mandatory consumer product safety rule under CPSIA in 2008 – and the industry continues to provide technical input and actively participate in the ongoing multi-stakeholder review of this "living" standard today so that it keeps pace with innovation and potential emerging issues. On this and in other efforts, the Association and its members work with government officials (notably CPSC and Health Canada staff members and others), consumer groups, medical and child development experts, and industry leaders to ensure safe play; the proven effectiveness of ASTM F963 is evidence of how well these constituencies have worked together in this common cause.

The priority the industry puts on product safety can also be seen in the history of the CPSC Guidelines for Determining Age Appropriateness of Toys as well. The Toy Association and its members lent expertise and provided significant input on the 2002 edition of the Guidelines (and earlier resources on the topic), and the Guidelines serve as an important reference for the industry. An update of that existing reference will increase its value and modernize it to reflect innovation over the years and we welcome the opportunity to provide input.

Detailed comments on the draft CPSC Guidelines for Determining Age Appropriateness of Toys (March 2018) have been outlined in the attached document. Our comments focus on clarity for the reader, as well as the technical information presented. We highlight here in this cover note two of our comments detailed in the attachment as they relate to elements that appear to influence the draft document as a whole.

The value of the CPSC Guidelines over the years is that they provide a valuable reference on child development milestones, learning and play, from CPSC Human Factors staff and other developmental experts. They provide important background on how play can enhance development based on current and historical intelligence and research – and valuable guidance on determining the appropriate age for a toy. We cite here two ways in which the value of this document could be enhanced.

First, we note in this proposed draft Guidelines that surveys of parents are referenced and may have influenced the draft Guidelines in unprecedented ways. For example, in the “Introduction” section of the document (p. 3) a survey of parents’ perceptions is referenced in which “most” parents reported that they consider the suggested age on toys as “only ‘somewhat accurate’” – suggesting that manufacturers have to do better in this regard1. No information (or analysis, that we know of) was provided as to whether this perception by parents is an accurate assessment of the accuracy of age grading of toys actually in the marketplace. We do know from experience that parents and other adults often disregard or underemphasize an age grade in making their toy selections, most consider it “just a suggestion” (according to a 2017 Harris Poll2), and there is an oft-reported tendency towards choosing toys of a higher age grade for children who are deemed “more advanced” in their parent’s or caregiver’s view (or in hopes to expedite learning and development). These factors provide evidence that parents may not fully understand the value and purpose of the age label on a package and that more information and outreach to consumers in this regard may be needed – but it does not necessarily mean that manufacturers are inaccurate in their age labeling or determinations, or that the Guidelines themselves should be changed. It is unclear from the draft Guidelines the extent to which the cited survey of parents influenced the text. The value of such surveys to assess parental perceptions would be to inform outreach and education programs for consumers regarding age labeling on toys (a recent example is the joint message on the importance of following age labeling from CPSC, The Toy Association and Kids In Danger, November 2017)3. To address the apparent gap in understanding age labeling, we recommend that CPSC consider additional consumer education and outreach efforts related to the value of age labeling and we offer support from The Toy Association in such an effort.

Additionally, we have a recommendation aimed to improve the readability and understanding of the guidance document itself. The Guidelines are useful to the extent that they summarize complex developmental concepts and stages into a working reference understandable to those who may not, themselves, have as an extensive background in child development or human factors. We believe the readability and usefulness of the document could be enhanced with the following considerations. We note that certain nomenclature used within the text is undefined in the draft. At times, these terms are also used in confusing statements within the text.

Examples of terms that could benefit from an added definition for the reader are:

  • “Intended” appears frequently in the document (as in “intended for children…” of a particular age, “intended age” and other uses). We recognize that “intended” is also used in 16 CFR, however, it does not seem to be defined in the Guidelines and can be confusing to the reader (“intended” by whom?) and this effect is compounded when used along with “intent” (as in “manufacturer intent” which more clearly ascribes whose intent). We note that “intended” is also used in the definitions for both “children’s toy” and “child care article” in the referenced Section 108 of CPSIA but both make the ownership of the “intent” clear (“designed or intended by the manufacturer”) – and those uses seem different than what it is attempted to be conveyed by “intended” in the draft document. In some cases, “intended” appears to have been used in the draft Guidelines when what is meant may be something closer to “appropriate age”, “recognized age”, age grading”, “age determination”, or similar, and we respectfully request that CPSC staff consider clarifying the term as used in the draft Guidelines.
  • Similarly, the phrases “commonly recognized” and “commonly intended” are used in the draft document without explanation or context to know as to by whom; addition of such context would enhance clarity for the user.
  • No advice is offered to reconcile the differences in the definitions of “toy”/”children’s toy” between the mandatory standard ASTM F963 and the toy regulations found in 16 CFR, and their respective scopes. Additionally, some products are listed among the “toy subcategories” in the draft that actually fall outside of the scope and definition of “toy” in the ASTM F963 standard; the Guidelines could be improved by addressing these discrepancies, perhaps with an expanded title and/or broader terms.

Please refer to the attached chart for additional examples and details; we offer this information in that it may be considered in a subsequent draft.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide comment on this document and -- in the spirit of cooperation and the long history The Toy Association and its members have working with the agency – we offer our ongoing support in our shared mission to ensure the safety of toys. Additionally, as CPSC looks to make the Guidelines a living document, we recommend that a public-private Working Group with expertise on age grading of toys and child development be formed – to allow continued input to these Guidelines. We would be happy to lend expertise to the cause.

We are happy to provide additional information or engage in discussions if desired, and look forward to a positive response from the Commission.

Thank you.


Alan P. Kaufman
Senior Vice-President, Technical Affairs

CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle
CPSC Commissioner Robert Adler
CPSC Commissioner Dana Baiocco
CPSC Commissioner Elliot F. Kaye

About The Toy Association: The Toy Association™, Inc. represents more than 900 businesses – toy manufacturers, importers and retailers, as well as toy inventors, designers and testing labs – who are all involved in bringing safe and fun toys and games for children to market. Safe play is the number one priority for the Association and its members. Approximately 3 billion toys are sold in the U.S. each year, totaling $25 billion at retail; Association members account for approximately 90% of this market.

1 No citation was provided.
2 “82 percent think the age label on toy packaging is ‘just a suggestion’…” November 1, 2017 Press Release from The Toy Association: New National Survey Reveals Concerning Attitudes Toward Toy Safety.
3 “Age Matters,” from CPSC Press release November 16, 2017 including statements on the importance of age grading from CPSC, The Toy Association and Kids In Danger.