Unwrap the gift of toy safety

December 12, 2011

When you shop for children this holiday season, make sure the toys you bring home are safe.

Toy-related injuries send tens of thousands of children to the emergency department each year. Most injuries occur when parents give their children toys meant for older children. Although many toy makers follow safety guidelines for their products, some don't. Your challenge is to make sure the toys your children play with are safe.

These suggestions can help you ensure your children don't get hurt while playing with toys.

Beware of small parts

Don't give toys with small parts to toddlers. Very young children tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking.

Watch for magnets

Many toys contain small magnets. If the magnets detach from the toys, children can swallow them. If more than one magnet is swallowed — or, if a magnet and a metal object are swallowed — the pieces can attract each other and cause intestinal perforations or blockages, which can be fatal.

Age appropriate

Make sure your child's toys are suitable for his or her age, abilities, skills and interest level. Toys that are too advanced can pose safety hazards.

Look for standards

Look for the letters ASTM, which indicate a product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Is it noisy?

Avoid toys that make a loud or shrill noise to avoid serious ear injury.

Choose well-made stuffed animals

The eyes, noses and other small parts of stuffed animals should be securely fastened.

Hobby kits

Never let children younger than 12 play with hobby kits, such as chemistry sets. Provide proper supervision when older children play with such toys.

Watch the action

Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off. Slingshots and high-powered water guns can injure targeted children. BB guns shouldn't be considered toys.

No heat

Avoid toys with electric heating elements.

Inspect toys for solid construction

They should be made of durable materials, have no sharp edges or points and be able to withstand impact.

Read carefully

Read instructions carefully and follow suggested age levels. Age labeling is provided for developmental and safety reasons.

Show and tell

Explain and demonstrate how to use toys.

Toss it

Repair or discard damaged toys.

Keep separate

Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger ones.

How do they play?

Don't let children play with toys in dangerous ways.

Trash wrappings

Discard wrappings immediately. Sharp staples and plastic bags can cause injuries and pose safety hazards.

Safety rules

Make a list of safety rules and share them with your children. If your kids are playing with friends, remind everyone of your safety rules.


Toy Safety Information from Childrens.com

Consumer Product Safety Commission
American Society for Testing and Materials
Toy Industry Association
Safe Kids Worldwide