Buying the right toy for a child includes thinking about the safety issues: Look for quality design and construction in all toys for all ages. Make sure that all directions or instructions are clear–to you, and, when appropriate, to the child. Plastic wrappings on toys should be discarded at one before they become deadly playthings.
Be a label reader. Look for and heed age recommendations, such as ‘Not recommended for children under three.” Look for other safety labels including: “Flame retardant/Flame resistant” on fabric products and “Washable/hygienic materials” on stuffed toys and dolls. LABELS ARE ONLY GUIDELINES. Parents need to check carefully.
Keep toys intended for older children away from younger children – such toys may injure young children.
Check the toy recall lists and hazardous toys lists before buying toys. You will find links to the main lists on all of our toy selection pages.
Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards – damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away immediately.
Store toys safely – teach children to put toys away so they are not tripping hazards. Check toy boxes and shelves for safety.
Electric toys that are improperly constructed, wired or misused can shock or burn. Electric toys must meet mandatory requirements for maximum surface temperatures, electrical constructions and prominent warning labels. Electric toys with heating elements are recommended only for children over eight years old. Children should be taught to use electric toys properly, cautiously and under adult supervision.
Teach your kids the safety rules for the use of tools, equipment and outdoor toys. Be sure they have the proper safety equipment for wheel toys such as helmets and knee pads.
Research has shown that exposure to violence in video games, movies and TV shows may lead to behavior problems in children and teenagers. Both the American Association of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association warn parents to be aware of the content of the media their children are involved with. Learn the Movie, TV and Video Game rating systems and use them as guidelines. Parents should, however, view the material and use reviews by appropriate agencies as well.
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
- American Psychological Association (APA)
- Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
- National Public Interest Research Group (PIRG)
- Lion & Lamb Project
- Parent TV Council
Toy Safety – Basic Tips
Shopping for toys can be exciting and fun, but it also can be frustrating. There can be thousands of toys to choose from in one store, and it’s important to choose the right toy for the right age child. Toys that are meant for older children can be dangerous for younger children.
Here are some things to consider depending on the age of the child:
Under 3 Years Old:
- Children under 3 tend to put everything in their mouths. Avoid buying toys intended for older children which may have small parts that pose a coking danger.
- Never let children of any age play with un-inflated or broken balloons because of the choking danger.
Avoid marbles, balls, and games with balls, that have a diameter of 1.75 inches or less. (If they can fit through a toilet paper roll tube, they are too small).
- Children at this age pull, prod and twist toys. Look for trays that are well-made with tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts.
Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.
Ages 3 through 5:
- Avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges.
- Look for household are materials, including crayons and paint sets, marked with the designation “ASTM D-4236.” This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with cautionary information.
- Teach older children to keep their toys away from their younger brothers and sisters.
Ages 6 through 12:
- For all children, adults should check toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away.
- If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel, or the entire gun is brightly colored so that it’s not mistaken for a real gun.
- If you buy a bicycle for any age child, buy a helmet too, and make sure the child wears it.
- Teach all children to put toys away when they’re finished playing so they don’t trip over them or fall on them.
READ THE LABEL
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires toy manufacturers to meet stringent safety standards and to label certain toys that could be a hazard for younger children. Look for labels that five recommendations and use that information as a guide. Labels on toys that state “not recommended for children under three…contains small parts,” are labeled that way because they may pose a coking hazard to children under three. Toys should be developmentally appropriate to suit the skills, abilities and interests of the child.
The above information was reproduced with permission from The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Common Toy Hazards
While toy manufacturers are responding to the findings of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), parents should remain vigilant about potential hazards in items on toy store shelves.
Here are the common type of hazards to look out for:
Choking Hazards Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons remains a leading cause of toy-related deaths and injuries. At least 150 children choked to death on children’s products between 1990 and 2003,a rate of about 12 deaths a year. Do not buy small toys or toys with small parts for young children. Watch for Choking Hazard Warning Labels but also double check the product yourself.
Strangulation Hazards Cords and elastic bands attached to toys can possibly cause strangulation accidents. The popular yo-yo water ball has been implicated in hundreds of injuries. This toy in particular should be avoided.
Loud Toys Almost 15% of children ages 6 to 17 show signs of hearing loss. New standards require that the loudness for handheld toys be limited to 90 decibels. Use your own ears as a guide. If a toy seems loud to you, it is probably too loud for a child.
Toxic Chemicals Phthalates are chemicals used to soften PVC plastic material and have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems. Play cosmetic sets and polymer clays for crafts may have these chemicals. Again, check the label and avoid toys that are not “phthalate-free.”
In addition to the above parents should exercise caution when considering the purchase of some other types of toys:
- Non-motorized scooters and other riding toys
- Electric toy mini-motorcycles and gasoline-powered mini-motorcycles (“Pocket bikes”)
- Toys with possible flammable liquids such as hair spray
Parents should supervise their children closely when they use these toys. Equip kids with proper safety equipment for riding toys. Set and enforce safety rules. Keep spray products away from open flames.
For more information please see the latest “Trouble in Toyland” report by PIRG.
Toy Recall Lists
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) maintains an official Toy Recall List. New items are added as soon as they are identified as being a hazard. Parents should check the list before going toy shopping and also look for the presence of newly added products in the child’s toy box. Also the Public Research Interest Group (PIRG) provides a list of potentially hazardous toys at ToySafety.net.
Avoiding Media Violence
There is a growing concern about the amount and type of violence portrayed in video games and in video entertainment for children and teenagers. It is to the point that the American Academy of Pediatrics has said that “playing violent video games is to an adolescent’s violent behavior what smoking tobacco is to lung cancer.” That’s according to information included in the revised AAP Policy Statement Media Violence, which indicates that playing violent video games accounts for a 13% to 22% increase in adolescents’ violent behavior compared to a 14% increase in lung cancer from smoking tobacco.
Recent brain research finds that violent games actually activate the anger center of the brain while dampening the brain’s conscience. This includes an increase in physiological anger arousal, violent thoughts and language and a decrease in social skills. Playing M rated games often results in teenagers who show disrespect for others and increased fighting with peers.
Excessive time playing video games (over 14 hours per week) leads to a decrease in academic performance and less than optimal physical development including an increased incidence of obesity.
Parents can minimize these negative effects by:
- Limiting the time spent playing video games
- All TV time should be limited to 1 to 2 hours per day
- Encourage other types of play including out door play
- No video games for kids under 4 or 5
Exercising control of the content of the games played and videos and TV programs viewed:
- No “M” rated games for individuals under 21.
- Preview the content of “T” rated games either yourself or through review such as ChildrensSoftware.com, Lion & Lamb Project and ReviewCorner.com.
- Purchase games from these categories: Racing & Flying, Role-Playing, Sports & Outdoors and Strategy.
- Read this list of Mature Video Games Parent’s Should Watch Out For and also check out the Dirty Dozen lists from the Lion and Lamb Project
Teach Kids Safety
As children mature, they will be ready to take on new activities such as riding bikes and scooters, conducting science experiments and using potentially hazardous materials in art and craft projects. Parents have a responsibility to ensure kids safety when the take on these new experiences. Some of the steps parents can take include:
- Purchase all recommended safety equipment
- Teach safety rules for the activity
- Monitor initial activity to see that rules are followed and safety equipment is used properly
- Once things are off to a good start, parents should monitor the activity “once in awhile”
- If safety precautions are forgotten, re-teach. If they are defied, restrict.
Here are some helpful materials:
- Bicycle and tricycle safety (AAP)
- In-Line Skating and Skateboards (AAP)
- Trampoline Safety (AAP)
- Toy Safety Information (for children from CPSC)
By taking time to be involved with their children, parents can learn how to help them get the most out of play-time which is important to their physical, intellectual, emotional and social development.
Kids don’t usually think “safety first” when diving into a new, fun activity. Parents need to be their to teach and offer guidance. Together, play can be both fun and safe.