Choosing Safe Toys for Your Little One

Toys are a large part of childhood. They play an important part in the learning and development of children of all ages.Yet hundreds of kids end up in the emergency room every year due to toy related injuries. Children 3 years old and younger are especially at risk from choking because they tend to put everything in their mouths. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to supervise your children while they are playing.

Toy manufactures must follow certain guidelines, and most toys must be labeled for age specific groups. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission closely monitors and regulates toys. Any toys made in, or imported into the U.S. after 1995 must comply with CPSC standards.

When selecting toys for your children keep the following guidelines in mind:

Check the age appropriate rating on the box. This rating is based on safety standards for each age level. It is not based on a child’s intelligence or maturity. In other words don’t give a 3 year old a toy labeled for a 5 year old.

Make sure toys are sturdy and all parts are securely attached, avoid toys with sharp or pointy edges. or parts like plastic eyes that could be pulled off. Any toy given to a baby should be able to withstand chewing, as babies often explore toys with their mouths.

Avoid guns or other toys that shoot objects, these can cause eye injuries or pose a choking hazard.

Check that toys made of fabric are labeled flame resistant or retardant and that all parts are fastened securely.

Stuffed toys should be washable and should not contain pellets or beans that a child could swallow.

Painted toys should have lead free paint.

Make sure battery operated toys have a battery compartment secured by screws so children won’t have easy access. Batteries pose a danger if they are leaking battery acid, they can also be a choking hazard. Inspect toys periodically.

Art materials such as paint, glue, and markers should say non-toxic.

Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, this means they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Check the noise level of musical and electronic toys. Loud toys can contribute to hearing loss if the child holds it next to ears.

Be aware that garage sale toys and hand-me-downs may not meet current safety standards.

Where babies or toddlers are concerned, reduce choking risk by avoiding toys and games that include pieces that are smaller than 1.75 inches in diameter. A good rule of thumb is any object that can fit through an empty toilet paper roll is a choking hazard. Older children should keep things like marbles, legos, and small electronics with cords or ear phones out of reach of their younger siblings.

Avoid crib toys that have ribbons, ropes, cords, wires, or anything hanging from them that could strangle a baby.

Only buy electronic toys that are UL-approved and never let a child use a toy with a frayed card, it could result in shocks or burns.

Avoid balloons around toddlers and young children, uninflated balloons or pieces can seal off a child’s airway and make it impossible to breathe.

Avoid toys with magnets, children can swallow small, powerful, magnets that can stick to each other through intestinal walls which can pinch or kink intestines, causing blockages, holes or infections if not treated.

Make sure riding toys are sturdily made and don’t tip over while the child is getting on or off.

Avoid chemistry sets that may contain dangerous chemicals or flammable substances. Children are not aware of the dangers of mixing chemicals.

Be aware of how toy chests or containers are made. Heavy lids can pinch small fingers or a child can crawl in, get trapped, and suffocate.

Before buying expensive toys or baby equipment, check Consumer Reports for product recalls.

Always read the directions to be sure you and your child know how to use a toy before allowing any age child to play with it.

And PLAY with your child!  They are only little once!  Encourage creativity!  Encourage healthy language skills and enjoy their world for a bit!  It will be good for both of you!