For Kids' Sake: Think Toy Safety
by Amy Scholten, MPH
You may feel pressure to buy your kids the latest toys. Before you do, consider these safety tips.
Choose Toys With Care
Keep in mind the child's age, interests, and skill level. Look for quality toys for all ages.
Read the Label
The label should tell you the age recommendations—such as "not recommended for children under 3". In addition, look for other safety labels. Examples are. "flame retardant/flame resistant" on fabric products. Look for "washable/hygienic materials" on stuffed toys and dolls.
Make Sure the Directions Are Clear
Read the directions. Make sure you know how to use the toy correctly. Show your child how to use the toy. Also, throw out plastic wrappings, clips, and pins on toys—they can be dangerous to children.
Bringing the Toys Home
Be Aware of Possible Hazards
Cords and Strings
Toys with long strings or cords can cause harm to babies and very young children. The cords can become wrapped around an infant's neck and cut off their air supply. Never hang toys with long strings, cords, loops, or ribbons in cribs or playpens. Keep hanging mobiles and crib gyms out of the baby's reach. In time, the baby will be able to pull up on their hands and knees (at about 5 months old). This is when you should remove mobiles and crib gyms.
Be aware of small parts that could come off of a toy. A child can swallow small parts. They can also get stuck in a child's windpipe, ears, or nose. The law bans small parts in new toys for children under 3. This includes removable small eyes and noses on stuffed toys and dolls. It also includes small, removable squeakers on squeeze toys.
Make sure baby toys—like squeeze toys or teethers—are too big to get stuck in the baby's throat.
Broken toys may have dangerous points or prongs. Stuffed toys may have wires inside the toy—they could cut or stab if exposed. Children under 8 years of age should not use toys with sharp points.
Flying Toys and Objects
Beware of toys that fly or can be shot through the air. They can be turned into weapons and can injure eyes. Never let children play with adult lawn darts or other hobby or sports equipment that have sharp points. Instead, use special arrows and darts for children. They should have soft cork tips, rubber suction cups, or other protective tips. Check to be sure the tips are secure. Do not buy dart guns or other toys that could fire objects such as pencils or nails.
Electric toys can lead to shocks and burns. If you want to buy your child an electric toy, make sure:
Some toys are loud enough to damage hearing. Examples are toy caps and some noisemaking toy guns. Look for warning labels on boxes of caps: "WARNING—Do not fire closer than 1 foot to the ear. Do not use indoors." Some caps have been banned for noise that could injure a child's hearing.
Check all toys periodically. Make sure they are not broken or have possible hazards. A damaged or dangerous toy should be thrown away or repaired right away. Also check outdoor toys. Examine these often for rust or weak parts that could be harmful.
Teach children to put their toys safely away on shelves or in a toy chest after playing. This will help prevent trips and falls. Toy boxes, too, should be checked for safety. Use a toy chest that has a lid that will stay open in any position. It should not have a lid that could fall on a child. Also make sure there are ventilation holes for fresh air. Watch for sharp edges that could cut—and hinges that could pinch or squeeze. Make sure outdoor toys are also stored after play.
Playing It Safe
Keep your older child's toys away from younger children. Follow labels that give age recommendations. Some toys are advised for older children because they could cause harm to a younger child. Teach older children to help keep their toys away from younger brothers and sisters. Even a balloon, when deflated or broken, can choke or suffocate a child.
Protecting children from unsafe toys is everyone's responsibility. Choose toys carefully and supervise children at play. That is the best way to protect children from toy-related injuries.
To report an unsafe product, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website.
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Choosing safe toys. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: https://www.kidshealth.org/en/parents/safe-toys.html. Accessed November 5, 2021.
CPSC proposes guidelines for sharp points and edges on toys. Consumer Product Safety Commission website. Available at: https://www.cpsc.gov/Newsroom/News-Releases/1977/CPSC-Proposes-Guidelines-For-Sharp-Points-And-Edges-On-Toys. Accessed November 5, 2021.
How to buy safe toys. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/How-to-Buy-Safe-Toys.aspx. Accessed November 5, 2021.
Small parts for toys and children's products business guidance. Consumer Product Safety Commission website. Available at: https://www.cpsc.gov/Business--Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Small-Parts-for-Toys-and-Childrens-Products. Accessed November 5, 2021.
Toys. Consumer Product Safety Commission website. Available at: https://www.cpsc.gov/Regulations-Laws--Standards/Voluntary-Standards/Topics/Toys. Accessed November 5, 2021.
Last reviewed November 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 11/5/2021
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