Playing It Safe: The Whole Toy Story

Walking through the aisles of toys can be a daunting. It is hard to know what to choose. But when you buy toys for your children, it’s important to shop smartly. Here’s how:

Read labels. The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires toy manufacturers to meet strict safety standards and to label certain toys that could be a hazard. Look for labels that offer age recommendations. Use that information as a guide.

Inspect all toys. Small parts on soft toys and stuffed animals should be securely fastened. All removable parts should be larger than your child’s mouth. Avoid toys that have sharp edges or points.

Read directions. Make sure all directions are clear to you, and, when appropriate, to your child.

Protect eyes. Avoid toys that shoot small objects. Tips of darts or arrows should be blunt, made of soft rubber or flexible plastic, and securely fastened to the shaft.

Protect ears. Avoid toys that make loud or shrill noises. Hold a noise-making toy next to your ear to decide whether it will be too loud for your child’s ears.

Watch cords and strings. Strings and cords on toys should be no longer than 6 inches to avoid the risk of strangulation.

Use caution with electric toys. Electric toys must meet mandatory requirements for maximum surface temperatures and electrical construction. They also must have prominent warning labels.

Check the label on art supplies. Make sure art materials, including crayons and paint sets, bear the code ASTM D-4236. This means that the products have been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with a warning.

Be wary of balloons. More children have suffocated on deflated balloons than any other type of toy.

Be careful with balls. When buying for children younger than 3, avoid marbles and balls that have a diameter of 1 inches or less. These products pose a choking hazard to young children.

Choosing the Right Toy

Here are some guidelines to help you choose age-appropriate toys for your child. For more ideas, ask your pediatrician.

Infants: Choose toys that will appeal to your baby’s senses of sight, hearing, and touch. Large wood or plastic blocks, rattles, busy boards, and squeeze toys all are good choices for babies.

Toddlers: Toys for 1- to 2-year-olds should be able to hold up to a toddlers natural curiosity. Look for toys that are well made with tightly secured eyes, noses, and other parts. Some good choices include cloth books, stacking and nesting toys, and musical tops.

Preschoolers: Children ages 2 to 5 like to imitate adults and older children. Good toys for this age group are crayons, clay, books, toy cars and wagons, simple puzzles, and tea sets.

5- to 9-year-olds: Toys for this age group should provide opportunities for skill development and creativity. Good choices include play medical kits, balls, crafts, bicycles, puppets, and electric trains.

10- to 14-year-olds: Children of this age are developing true interests. Nonviolent, educational computer games, hobby supplies, sports equipment, and board games are ideal for this age group.

Safety at Home

Your concern about toy safety should not end at the store. Children and their toys must be properly supervised at all times.

• After opening a toy, throw away all plastic packaging.

• Check toys periodically for damage.

• Teach older children to keep their toys away from younger brothers and sisters.

• Teach all children to put away their toys to reduce the danger of tripping.

Online Medical Reviewer: Desrosiers, Florence MD

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

© 2000-2018 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.