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 that holiday shopping buying gifts, check those lists to know whether they want age-appropriate toys. Make sure they want safe toys and follow the safe toys guidelines below.

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. Use these resources to find out if there have been any toy recalls.

Toy Recall Resources

Safe Toys Guidelines

holidays children's wish lists, buying giftsFirst 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”.

When you have questions, we are here to help. Call us at (877) 284-6600.

Types of Toy Related Injuries

Choking is one of the most common toy related injuries. Did you know a child’s trachea is no wider than a straw? This means that even very tiny pieces can block the airway and cause suffocation. It is one of the leading causes of unintentional death for infants.  Toy manufacturers are required to put warnings on labels for choking hazards, however, parts can break off and create a choking hazard. Best advice? Inspect a toy before allowing a child to play with it, read all labels and ensure it is age-appropriate.

safe toys safe toys guidelinesFalls. Children fall off a bike, scooter, skateboard and other riding toys. Falls can result in minor injuries such as cuts, scrapes and bruises to more serious ones such as bone fractures and head injuries. Best advice? Get the proper padding to go along with the toy, such as kneepads, elbow pads and helmets.

Eye injuries can be caused by toys such as BB guns and other weapon-related toys, sports equipment, toys that contain rubber bands, bungee cords and more. Injuries can range from mild corneal abrasions to severe retinal detachment and even blindness. Best advice? Ensure children wear proper protective eyewear when playing sports and that toys are age-appropriate.

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.
  • age appropriate toys safe toys safe toys guidelinesWarnings. 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.
  • Riding Toys. This includes bicycles, scooters, skateboards and other riding toys. Be sure to buy the appropriate size according to the child’s age and get training wheels if necessary. Always include safety gear with your gift.

ALWAYS make sure that children have appropriate adult supervision.

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



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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published December 2, 2019. It was reviewed on November 25, 2022, updated for content and accuracy and re-published on November 30, 2022.


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