Recently, another round of recalls of toys mainly manufactured in China have added to the headaches of parents who must balance the wishes of their children against safety concerns.

A couple of the most popular lines of toys, Mattel and Fisher-Price, have been hardest hit by the recalls. The number of items pulled from the shelves has now topped the 20 million mark.

And with the holiday season rapidly approaching, people who would normally be buying those toys (many of which have been tainted by lead-based paint) are having to look at their options.

Fortunately, there are a lot of alternative products that can fill the void left by more traditional playthings.

For instance, a lot of smaller specialty gift shops carry other brands of toys that are made in Europe. Now they may not have the exact items that are all the rage (each holiday season seems to create a new furor for a certain kind of toy), they serve the same purpose.

Kids have a way of adapting to whatever new present will occupy their attention once they've taken the time to play with it.

Also, the marketplace has created options for grandparents, aunts and uncles and others who are buying for children who they're not around all the time. Gift cards or simple cash are great options. That way, parents can exercise the caution while allowing the kids to choose their own presents.

Another saving grace is the fact that so many youngsters are involved in the evolution of electronic toys. Even at an early age, they have devices to play games, music and video. So shoppers can purchase software or certificates for downloads of music or videos without having to worry about harmful paint or toys that have sharp edges that could cause injury.

Sure, buying holiday gifts for youngsters will be a bit more complicated this time around.

And shoppers need to be at least attuned to the fact that some toys might be harmful.

But there are plenty of options, so outside of some possible disappointments on the part of young recipients and some minor inconveniences for gift hunters, it's all fairly manageable.

- Odessa American