12 timely tips for toy safety

Chances are your children will get at least a few toys as gifts from friends and family this season. And the same way you go through their Halloween candy to make sure it’s safe, you should also check the toys they receive. Batteries, small parts, magnets and more can present safety hazards. And toys that are too advanced for the child’s age can cause problems, too. In 2013, an estimated 256,700 toy-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments.1 So take a few minutes to make sure the toys your children receive are safe for them to play with. Here are 12 tips you can use as a guide.

  1. Make sure the toy suits the age, abilities, skills, and interest level of the child. Toys too advanced may pose hazards for younger children.2 Always read the labels to see the appropriate age range for the toys. You may think that a child who’s advanced in comparison to peers can handle toys meant for older kids. And the gift giver may have felt the same way. But the age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity.3
  2. Before allowing your child to play with the toy, read the instructions carefully.2
  3. To prevent burns and electrical shocks, do not give children under the age of 10 a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Their toys should be battery operated.
  4. Children can have serious stomach and intestinal problems that can even be deadly after swallowing button batteries or magnets. So make sure button batteries are completely inaccessible. Toys aren’t the only place where these batteries are used. They are often found in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids, and other small electronics. Keep button batteries away from young children and call your healthcare provider immediately if your child swallows one. And when it comes to magnets, keep in mind that small, powerful magnets are present in many homes as part of building toy sets. Monitor loose magnets and other magnetic products closely to see that children do not swallow them. Magnets are also found in products designed for adult use. Recently children have been injured as a result of swallowing small, round magnets marketed as stress relief desk “toys” for adults. Also, talk with your older children and teens about the serious dangers associated with using magnets as fake piercings in their mouths or noses.4
  5. Young children can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age three cannot have parts less the 1-1/4 inches in diameter and 2-1/4 inches long.
  6. Children can choke or suffocate on un-inflated or broken balloons. Do not allow children under age 8 to play with them.
  7. Remove tags, strings, and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children. Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches long. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
  8. Parents should store toys in a designated location, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest. And keep older kids’ toys away from young children.
  9. Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.3
  10. Crayons and paints should have “ASTM D-4236” on the package, which means that they have been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials. All art materials should say “nontoxic.”
  11. Make sure the toy isn’t too loud for your child. The noise of some rattles, squeak toys, and musical or electronic toys can be as loud as a car horn. They can contribute to hearing damage, especially if the child holds it close to his ears.
  12. We’ve saved the best till last: The most important thing a parent can do is to supervise play.


1 http://www.cpsc.gov/Global/Research-and-Statistics/Injury-Statistics/Toys/ToyReport2013.pdf (link opens in new window)

2 https://healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Holiday-Party-Safety.aspx (link opens in new window)

3 http://pulse.seattlechildrens.org/safe-holiday-toys-what-parents-should-look-for-when-choosing-gifts-for-kids/ (link opens in new window)

4 https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Dangers-of-Magnetic-Toys-and-Fake-Piercings.aspx (link opens in new window)

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