As you can imagine before starting Cherieswood and while experimenting on our first prototypes, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching what makes a baby gym better than the others current available in the market.
I started my research looking at hundreds of products, with different colours and budgets, but ultimately the two biggest categories I found were wooden baby gyms and plastic baby gyms. I then went on reading reviews for many different products on both categories and trying to understand what clients liked or not.
Baby Gym: the main differences between wood and plastic
If you are in the market for a newborn gift, a baby gym will likely be the first idea. Then you open Google, Amazon or Etsy and start looking for options. You will get thousands of results and that’s where you will start to wondering “why are all these baby gyms so different? What should I buy?“.
Putting budget aside for a second, let’s investigate the two main categories.
Plastic baby gyms
Plastic is very common in this space, besides a few high quality ones, there are thousands of models plenty of colours, flashy and somethimes even with souunds and lights.
These model are usually built in China made in PVC and produced with potentially toxis glues, dyes and synthetic fibers. While researching this market I pretty must noticed how many vendors are simply buying these baby gyms on AliExpress (or similar Chinese marketplace) and reselling them on Etsy or Amazon. In fact, it’s easy to spot them because they all look the same with just a few variations.
Wooden baby gyms
Wooden Baby Gym is the other big category in this industry. You will still find hundreds of products, there are baby gyms made with real wood and other made with plywood or of a mix of wood and other materials.
We will get back to materials in the next paragraph, so let me explain why, in general, a wooden baby gym is a safer and better choice for a gift:
- First of all, wood is a natural material and playing with it gives the baby a different feeling than plastic. A baby gym is first of all a way for the newborn to explore the world around him while improving visual and cognitive development.
- A wooden baby gym will look pretty simple compared to plastic models. It doesn’t have a lot of colours and loudly noise producer, that’s exactly what you want, being sure your baby doesn’t get over stimulated.
- Last but not least, wood has a calming effect and we talked more about it in our article related to the benefits of wooden toys.
Quality, construction and safety, use standards to make the right decision
When I started reading reviews and comments on online communities, it was clear that every parent was ultimately looking for baby gyms that were beautiful but that were safe to use and did not have any potential danger for their newborns.
As I said, even if you go with a wooden baby gym, you still find a lot of products that are using dyes, paints and materials that you know little about and some of them should never be used for toys. The market offers specific materials that should be used for toys and there are many standards in each continent that regulate the type of materials you should use to build toys.
Most of us don’t have the time to read all the specifics (and some are usually not available) so…
WHAT CAN YOU DO? CHECK THE STANDARDS!
Both Europe and US have specific standards that the most important producers have adopted to build toys. These standards force companies to follow specific rules for multiple aspects: materials, construction and reliability. To give you an example: at Cherieswood we have spent 4+ months working with an external multinational (UL.com) to test our baby gym and make sure it could pass all the requirements before bringing it to market.
Europe – The most famous standard in Europe is called CE mark: you will see a CE mark applied on these products (for example, you can find it on our baby gym on the main structure and on our package) that certifies that they have been tested for the highest standards in terms of quality, health and environmental protections. When it comes down to toys, the CE’s requirements are pretty strong. To give you an example, all the felt we use is EN-71 certified, a special standard in Europe specific for toys.
United States – In the US there are similar requirements governed by CSPC and every producer that wants to sell toys needs to be compliant with them. Cherieswood has been certified for the US standards as well always in collaboration with an external company that executed tests and verified that our baby gym could pass them.
When you look for a baby gym online the easiest way is to look for these standards on the website and, even better, directly on the product. Companies are usually publishing specific pages related to the materials (this is how Cherieswood builds its baby gym and a detail on materials) they use and the production process involved, that’s where you can find a mention of their standards and any certification obtained.
Baby Gyms you should avoid and final considerations
Finally, I would like to spend a few words on products that, while being very cheap, I think you should just avoid and not even consider.
Most of them are easy to recognise: they are built in China, sometimes cost less than $30 and with Google you can easily spot them on multiple websites and marketplaces. They all look the same and they come with little or non existing description of their materials. I strongly suggest to not consider these products, especially if it’s a gift, there might dangerous consequences for the kids playing with them!
I hope this article helps you make a better decision while buying a new baby gym! As usual I am happy to read comments!