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New laws ban simple childhood pleasures

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For most of my childhood, I avoided red balloons. I had a theory: Red balloons pop more than any other color. I see how silly this is now, but for years I was convinced if I blew up a red balloon or received one at a party, my heart would soon break. POP.

Why did I avoid red balloons? Because when I was around 4 years old, I was blowing up a red balloon and it popped in my face. It startled me. The latex snapped back. It stung, but I wasn’t permanently scarred. I went on to blow up other balloons successfully and without incident. I learned from my mistake. Party balloons have a certain capacity. When exceeded, they pop. The horrors!

According to an article in Britain’s The Telegraph, new rules implemented by the EU mandate that children under the age of eight are no longer allowed to blow up balloons without supervision, “…In case they accidentally swallow them and choke.”  This worst-case scenario thinking has also led to an even more ridiculous ban. Paper whistle noisemakers that unroll when blown can’t be used by kids under the age of 14!

In some EU countries, a child may drink wine with dinner, but she can’t toot a paper party horn.

I find these new rules to be a slap in the face. Like an evil red balloon, good-intentioned laws meant to protect fly back in the face of common sense. Has society truly reached a point where a 13-year-old can’t be trusted to unfurl a paper horn without risking his life? Isn’t life dangerous? Ban the party horn. Next, the birthday cake. After all, don’t more people choke to death on food than party favors?

While the EU is busy protecting children from childhood, they should ban birthday candles. I’ve always been nervous around them, especially with my little ones. That’s why when we light birthday candles, we don’t let our toddlers pounce on them or try to grab them. It’s called parenting and I don’t need a government entity to help me connect the dots that fire + 2-year-old = be on our guard.

Balloons and paper horns aren’t the only things on the EU no-no list. They’ve also mandated that stuffed toys intended for children under age three be fully washable. This will protect Europe’s youngest citizens from catching horrific diseases via stained, well-loved teddy bears. I’m all for tossing lovies in the wash when warranted, but I appreciate that a little dirt and grime isn’t something to fear. Stuff gets dirty. We don’t live in a bleached, sanitized-for-your-protection world.

In case the EU’s toy safety patrol is reading this, I’d like to offer a few more suggestions of things they can ban to protect children:

~ Coloring books and paper, to prevent paper cuts which can become infected.

~ Tops because they can spin on a sharp point.

~ Any toy that can be thrown.

~ LEGO, because they hurt like a #*@&#* when stepped upon.

~ Toy foods that do not depict wise, healthy, nutritious choices.

I care deeply for the safety and health of my kids and kids all over the world. But, I’m convinced kids must be afforded opportunities to learn through play—and mistakes made while playing. I learned not to over-inflate balloons because I made a mistake. Could I have inhaled the balloon out of shock and fear? Yeah.

And I could have poked my eyes with pick-up-sticks, put a Monopoly boot up my nose, knocked my brother upside the head with a Tonka truck, tumbled down a hill on a Big Wheel, plummeted to the ground after a tire swing rope snapped, got my shoelaces tangled in bike gears, cut my foot on glass in a sandbox, developed allergies because I played with many, many rabbits, and colored my belly button blue with a permanent marker.

One of the EU officials defending the changes to toy safety rules stated, “You might say that small children have been blowing up balloons for generations, but not anymore and they will be safer for it.”

I suppose it’s all in how you define safe.


Author: gretchen

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  • comment avatar Amber Johnson October 11, 2011

    I’m all about banning any toy that can be thrown. Projectile toys have been a regular occurrence at our house. 🙂

    Ridiculous is right!!!!

  • comment avatar Laura aka LaLaGirl October 11, 2011

    Ridiculous. Let kids be kids!

  • comment avatar JoAnn October 11, 2011

    Laws like this only work on the people who would be conscientious anyway. People who know to watch kids with balloons are now forced to blow up the balloons all by themselves, and the parents who don’t care are letting their two year olds blow those paper-horn-thingies INTO the burning flames on a cake.


  • comment avatar Barbara October 11, 2011

    God, I miss the 70’s. Kids could be kids. We used a real hammer and nails in Kindergarten and could play safely in our front yards.

  • comment avatar Heather Ruch October 15, 2011

    And don’t forget to ban rocks. I’ve heard too many stories of fancy-freedom gone for a ride to the doctor to remove rocks from places they have no business being. My brother being one of them, or was that an eraser? Ban those too then! Shheeesh! Danger lurks everywhere!

    I do agree with banning Legos from the floor. Two am injuries while letting the puppies out must stop! And ban the dog bones too. Soccer is not meant to be played in the dark!

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