Of course, these days Nienhuis equipment is amazingly expensive, leaving most parents to look for discount equipment online. Be aware that most of the discount equipment is made in China (or in other countries with equally as spotty safety standards and oversight for production) and should be tested for lead.
Here are some things to look out for:
- Montessori equipment should fit together perfectly. If your equipment has edges or pieces that do not seem well-made, this is a sign the manufacturer is sub par. Lead testing kits can be purchased online and at a number of drugstores.
- Test each color paint on a toy or piece of equipment. Different colors and types of surfaces often come from different subcontractors. So, the shiny red surface might contain lead even when the other colors do not.
- Does the equipment smell odd? Toss it. Cancer causing material is used in production of things like wood surfaces with varnish and plastic surfacing for toys.
Finally, it's not just China. They're biggest manufacturer. And it's not just Mattel. Finally, it's not just toys. Be aware of other products, too!
This quote from the August 15, 2007, article "Mattel Recalls 19 Million Toys Sent From China," is a good one:
“If Mattel, with all of its emphasis on quality and testing, found such a widespread problem,
what do you think is happening in the rest of the toy industry, in the apparel industry and even in the low-end electronics industry?” said S. Prakash Sethi, a professor at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York, who has acted as an independent monitor of working conditions in Mattel’s factories for the last 10 years. “Everyone is going to be found with lots of dirty laundry.”