From blocks and dolls to puzzles and games, toys can be fun and educational for children. But they can present safety hazards as well. As a parent, you need to be aware of toy safety issues for children of all ages to keep your children safe while playing with toys.
Follow these general tips to help keep your children safe:
- Carefully follow manufacturer instructions on the assembly and use of toys.
- Pay close attention to age recommendations. These tell you when a toy has small parts that are unsafe for young children to play with.
- Check toys regularly for damages, such as sharp edges or loose small parts. Repair damaged toys immediately or throw them away.
- Make sure grandparents and other caregivers know about toy safety concerns.
When shopping for toys, do the following:
- Consider the child’s age, interests, and skill level.
- Read labels and follow age and safety information.
- Look for well-made toys that can stand up to the wear-and-tear of children’s play. For instance, avoid toys that look easy to break.
Choking: a major toy safety hazard
Little kids love to put things in their mouths. So, small toy parts present a big choking hazard. As a general rule, keep toys with small parts away from children under 3 years old. Also do the following:
- Test small toys or parts for safety. Try this with a cardboard toilet paper roll. If items can fit into the roll, they are too small and should be kept away from young children. You can also buy a small-part toy tester at a toy store.
- Keep small rounded and oval objects away from small children. These include balls and marbles. They also include small magnets used in some toys. Magnets are not just a choking hazard. When swallowed, they can cause serious internal injuries.
- Keep uninflated balloons and broken balloon pieces away from small children. Also, use only Mylar balloons. Avoid latex balloons—they’re easier to swallow and choke on.
- Remove and discard all packaging from toys before giving them to small children.
- Keep older kids’ toys stored away from young children’s toys.
- Don’t allow small children to play with toys with strings, straps, or cords longer than seven inches. A child can be strangled by these by accident.
Lead poisoning and toys
Lead poisoning from toys is less of a concern than choking on toys. Still, you should be aware of the hazards. Lead is a poisonous metal. For years it was used in making paint, gasoline, plumbing, toys, toy jewelry, and furniture. Children can get lead poisoning by putting toys containing lead in their mouths. Lead poisoning can cause permanent problems with kids’ growth, behavior, and learning abilities. It can even cause death. Do the following to keep your child safe from lead:
- Be alert to toy recalls (see below).
- If your child’s healthcare provider recommends it, get your child a blood test. This can tell you if your child has lead in his or her system.
Teach your kids toy safety
With a little instruction, your children can help keep themselves safe when playing with toys. For instance, older kids can help watch younger kids playing with toys. Teach all children to:
- Play safely with each toy.
- Put toys away after using them. This helps avoid tripping hazards.
- Stop playing with a toy if it is broken and come and tell you about it.
If a toy is found to be a safety hazard, it may be recalled. This means it will no longer be sold, and you may be able to get a refund of your purchase price. To learn about recalls, check with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) at www.cpsc.gov. You can sign up to receive emails on product recalls. Also, if you find a problem with a toy, report it to the CPSC.