Toy Safety – How to Choose Safe and Age-Appropriate Toys

Each year, numerous children are treated in hospital emergency departments due to injuries caused by toys. Fortunately, manufacturers follow guidelines, and most toys are labeled for specific age groups. Check toys for choking hazards using the “tube test” or emptying a toilet paper roll over the toy parts.

Also, avoid projectile toys that can hit a child in the eyes and cause blinding eye injuries.

Age-Appropriate

Toys are a vital part of a child’s play and exploration. They also can help children learn and practice essential skills. However, toys can be dangerous if they differ from the proper size or age for children to play with. Toys that are too small may be choking hazards for young children, while those that are too large could result in falls and other injuries.

Toy labels contain safety information that will give you a clue to the toy’s suitability for your children. For example, toys labeled for older children will be void of strings and straps that can get wrapped around a neck or wrist. In addition, toy packaging may include a “Not recommended for ages three and up” warning, which indicates that the toy contains small parts that could be a choking hazard for younger children.

It’s also a good idea to regularly check toys for deterioration and general wear and tear. In particular, toys with exposed removable parts should be inspected and cleaned as needed. Periodically wipe down wooden and plastic toys with soapy water, wash stuffed animals regularly, and inspect bicycles, tricycles, and other wheeled toys for loose or broken parts.

Safety Warnings

Many toy-related injuries occur when older children use toys designed for younger siblings, and even safe toys can become dangerous if they are broken or worn. Many toy guidelines and safety regulations require that certain toys carry a warning label on the toy or its packaging, depending on the type of toy.

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Age requirements on toy labels are not merely recommendations but are based on toy and child safety testing and are meant to ensure that a toy is developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. For example, a toy intended for toddlers should not have string or cords longer than 12 inches and may be free of choking hazards such as small parts and magnets.

Store any toys for a young child in a sturdy, high-up toy box that can’t be reached or pulled over by a climbing toddler or a cardboard box with a plastic film covering that can be pulled up to suffocate a baby. Also, ensure that any toys or play equipment for a child includes all the necessary safety gear, such as a helmet with bicycles and scooters.

Recommendations

Many toys are made with safety in mind, but even a safe toy can become dangerous if worn out or misused. Share these tips with your kids and their caregivers to help them choose and care for safe toys. Be sure to throw out any toy that develops a sharp point, breaks, or has rust or peeling paint, especially if your child is under 3. Also, make sure to put away and avoid giving young children access to toys meant for older kids, and don’t keep old, hand-me-down toys at home.

When choosing toys at Walmart, look for age recommendations on the packaging and toy labels to help prevent choking hazards. Select non-toxic toys and avoid small magnets or button batteries that can cause harm if swallowed or ingested. Additionally, steer clear of toys that shoot objects into the air, as they can cause choking or eye injuries. Store toys for your children in a toy box, plastic bin, or cardboard container, not a paper bag (which can lead to suffocation). If you have questions about whether a particular toy is safe, check the CPSC website for toy recall information.

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Materials

There’s no way to make toys completely safe; even the safest toys can become dangerous if they break or are left in the wrong hands. That’s why reading warnings and age recommendations is vital and always supervising children during play. It’s also a good idea to ensure older kids don’t offer their toys to younger siblings, as many toys that are safe for big kiddos may contain small parts or unsafe chemicals for little ones.

Avoid vintage or hand-me-down wooden toys that have chipped paint, which can contain lead, and choose plastic toys labeled phthalate-free, PVC-free, and BPA-free. Also, avoid plush toys with small pellets inside, which could clog an infant’s throat, and be wary of art kits containing chemicals.

Avoiding Choking Hazards

It is recommended to avoid toys with small parts that could come off and potentially cause choking for children under three years old. Because infants and toddlers have a natural reflex to gag, they are more susceptible to this danger.

Look for a toy’s age requirements and follow them closely (not just to avoid giving older children toys they can’t use properly, but also to ensure that the toy is safe for younger kids to play with). Avoid stuffed animals with loose string or cords longer than 12 inches, which can wrap around the child’s neck and create a strangulation risk. Avoid toy guns that shoot objects into the air, as they can cause serious eye injuries and choking.

Ensure any fabric toys are labeled as flame resistant/retardant and that any art supplies you buy have a label saying they’re non-toxic. Generally, toys should be free of button batteries (which can cause tissue burns) and magnets. Check that toys have no plastic film coverings, which can fall off and create choking hazards.

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