Consumer advocate Stephanie Oppenheim, 45, taps a network of families across the country to test hundreds of toys each year, then produces a guide rating the best and the worst.
"The false sense of security that parents have—that someone is looking at every single toy before it gets to their child—is gone. That's a good thing. There's not much you can do about lead paint other than watch the recall lists. But for other dangers, trust your instincts. If a toy seems too loud, if the parts seem too small, if a toy doesn't feel safe, then it isn't safe.
We have a self-regulated industry, and it doesn't always work. We are talking about a $20 billion industry now. Recalls take a lot of manpower and money, and a lot of toy makers are still very small businesses. Not everyone can respond the way
A shakeout needed to happen. Some things will be fixed and become better, because now everyone is paying attention. But I don't think everything will be fixed by this holiday season. Does that make me the grinch who stole Christmas?"
A version of this article appeared in the December 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.