Choosing Safe Toys: The Right Toys at the Right Age

Choosing Safe toys

The holidays are almost upon us and, like many, you may have in hand one or more children’s wish lists. But before you start buying gifts, check those lists to know whether what they want is safe and age-appropriate.

Safe Toys Month

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness Month. Since this is a big gift buying time of year, focusing on the safety of toys is important because:

  • Choking is a major risk for children when playing with toys, especially for those under three.
  • The eyes are a vulnerable spot and toys can cause serious injuries such as corneal abrasions, retinal detachment, even blindness.

It helps us all to keep in mind safety and suitability. Knowing what to look for can help prevent potential injuries from well-meaning gift givers.

Safe Toys Guidelines

First and foremost, you want to give toys that suit the age, skills and abilities of each child, especially when it comes to infants and those under the age of three.

These guidelines, published by the American Public Health Association, can help you choose safe toys no matter a child’s age.

  • Inspect all toys before purchasing. Avoid those that shoot or include parts that fly off. The toy should have no sharp edges or points and should be sturdy enough to withstand impact without breaking, being crushed, or being pulled apart easily.
  • When purchasing toys for children with special needs try to: Choose toys that may appeal to different senses such as sound, movement, and texture; consider interactive toys to allow the child to play with others; and think about the size of the toy and the position a child would need to be in to play with it.
  • Be diligent about inspecting toys your child has received. Check them for age, skill level, and developmental appropriateness before allowing them to be played with.
  • Look for labels that assure you the toys have passed a safety inspection – “ATSM” means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
  • Gifts of sports equipment should always be accompanied by protective gear (give a helmet with the skateboard).
  • Keep kids safe from lead in toys by: Educating yourself about lead exposure from toys, symptoms of lead poisoning, and what kinds of toys have been recalled; being aware that old toys may be more likely to contain lead in the paint; having your children wash their hands frequently and calling your doctor if you suspect your child has been exposed to lead. Consult the last two websites listed below for more information.
  • Do NOT give toys with small parts (including magnets and “button” batteries which can cause serious injury or death if ingested) to young children as they tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. If the piece can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it is not appropriate for kids under age three.
  • Do NOT give toys with ropes and cords or heating elements.
  • Do NOT give crayons and markers unless they are labeled “nontoxic”.

Safety Tips

  • Balloons. Children can choke on deflated or broken balloons. For safety’s sake, broken ones should go in the trash immediately and deflated ones kept away from children younger than eight years old.
  • Warnings. Read all warnings and instructions on the item’s packaging. Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Hand-me-downs. You may not want to give these as they might not meet current safety standards.
  • Noise/Volume. Toys can be loud especially if held directly next to the ear. This can damage a child’s hearing.

ALWAYS make sure that children have appropriate adult supervision.

Whether for Christmas or another occasion, use these guidelines and safety tips when purchasing toys.

Toy Recall Resources



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