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Customer Review

189 of 202 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Made of MDF, Not Wood & Loses Paint Quickly, December 12, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Melissa & Doug Wooden Shape Sorting Clock Educational Toy (Toy)
This is a fairly attractive clock. We've had it around for the past couple of years and it's seen a fair amount of play. I had bought it hoping it would be acknowledged as a clock, perhaps used as a learning tool of sorts, but neither of my children have ever played with it this way. Instead they remove the pieces, scatter them about, sometimes (rarely) use it as a puzzle, but mostly they just like those small brightly-colored wooden pieces. Which is a shame. The pieces are rapidly losing paint, and Melissa and Doug just isn't a company I trust enough to have their paint chips floating around in my children's environment. Their toys are made in China, and they've already had a recall in Canada for excessive barium in toys. I didn't even know toys could have excessive barium until I read about that recall.

That's not my only gripe.

When I bought this clock, I assumed it was wooden. But when you remove the pieces, it is clear that the material the base is made of is MDF, you can see the unfinished MDF inside the holes. Later, when the pieces begin to lose paint, you find that they too, not surprisingly, are made of MDF. So my first gripe with this puzzle is one I have with a great number of Melissa and Doug products: They advertise a wooden toy, and it's deceptive marketing.

Okay, so Melissa and Doug fudged a little on their description. What might have been wood once upon a time is now thinly pressed layers of sawdust and resin, but it was wood in a previous life, and that still counts, right? It's intentionally deceptive marketing, but does any of that really matter in the practical sense?

I think it does.

Medium density fiberboard (MDF) is nasty stuff. Containing a higher resin-to-wood ration than any other pressed wood product, MDF emits VOCs for at least a few months after manufacture and emits urea formaldehyde for the duration of its life. I doubt there have been any studies on using pressed wood for a child's toy that may be mouthed and is nonetheless handled frequently and in close proximity to their faces during day-to-day play. There have been studies suggesting urea formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen; others show that incidences of leukemia and lymphoma increase through prolonged exposure of VOCs in the indoor environment.

Bottom line, most MDF is not something you want in your home in any form, and it's probably not the best thing to make a child's toy out of. There are ways to manufacture MDF which use resins that do not contain formaldehyde which are supposed to be environmentally friendly. I contacted Melissa and Doug to find out if they use these formaldehyde-free resins in their MDF. They've got really friendly customer service, but no one available could provide me with that information. I was told they'd get back to me. I'm still waiting.

In the meantime, I think I'll just stick with the old adage: You get what you pay for.

For three times the cost of this clock, you can buy a very similar one that *is* made of wood (not MDF, not particle board, not plywood) in the USA: Hickory Dickory Dock Clock. If I had it to do over, I would do exactly that. It doesn't have the fantastic range of colors, but I guess it just depends on your priorities. I want a safer toy, one I feel good about my kids playing with. I want a toy without MDF, heavy metals, and other toxic substances. I don't feel confident this Melissa and Doug clock fits the bill.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 20, 2011, 6:50:58 AM PDT
Andalou says:
Thank you...you made me change my mind and i am appalled at Melissa and Doug made in China crap. HABA and Plan Toy for me.

Posted on Sep 27, 2011, 6:47:45 AM PDT
northernmom says:
I'm having a similar problem with their nesting blocks and sound blocks. I haven't bought them yet and M&D haven't gotten back to me yet whether they are made of MDF or actual wood.

Posted on Nov 9, 2011, 8:53:59 AM PST
LBNF says:
Thank you for your post, I had seen this toy a couple times and really wanted to get it for my daughter. Since seeing your post and and getting more information about the toy and the probability of a higher toxicity level than expected, I will go for something else. THANK YOU!! I only wish more toy companies would put a higher safety standard for their toys.

Posted on Apr 4, 2012, 3:27:03 PM PDT
Elle says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2012, 9:11:20 PM PDT
goonius says:
Becuase it said it was wooden. And I naively assumed that meant, like, real wood. Not resin, glues, formaldehyde, and a little sawdust. When I wised up, I wrote this review, because being informed about the things we buy is often quite difficult, and I figured it might help someone else.

Posted on Jun 10, 2013, 9:26:22 AM PDT
C. Campbell says:
Wonderfully useful review, thanks. And I agree with you.

Posted on Jul 19, 2013, 11:19:44 AM PDT
Pink2red says:
I had a bad feeling about these toys and came across your post and it has confimed my suspicions. I noticed the cabinet I keep these in smell like chemicals.

Posted on Dec 11, 2013, 10:23:33 AM PST
mefromhere says:
Thank you so much for addressing exactly the points I look in to when choosing toys: safety and quality first.

Posted on Feb 4, 2014, 5:39:05 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Mar 5, 2017, 11:15:09 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 25, 2016, 1:11:36 AM PST
Divya says:
Interesting to see that there is no reply from M&D on this review!
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