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.