KEEPING PLAYTIME FUN AND SAFE
These tips from ToyInfo.org’s toy, play and safety experts will help parents and other caregivers keep playtime fun and safe!
SELECTING THE PERFECT TOY FOR YOUR CHILD
Joan Lawrence is the Toy Industry Association’s resident “Toy Safety Mom” … take a trip through a toy store with Joan and hear her top 10 tips to keep in mind when shopping for toys.
Choosing a toy that matches your child’s age and interests is the important first step for safe and fun play.
- When shopping for a toy, be sure to check and follow age guidance and other safety information on toy and game packaging. Remember, the age grading doesn’t pertain to how smart a child is – it’s a safety precaution that is based on the developmental skills and abilities of children at a given age.
- Avoid toys with small parts when shopping for children under age three (3) and children who mouth toys. Learn how to test the size of objects around the home.
- Inspect toys at the store, looking for sturdy parts and tightly secured joints.
- Make sure that batteries in toys are firmly enclosed and inaccessible to children.
- For children under 18 months of age, avoid toys with strings, straps or cords longer than twelve (12) inches.
- Check to see that plush (stuffed) toys have age-appropriate features such as embroidered or secured eyes and noses for younger children, and seams that are reinforced to withstand an older child’s play.
- Avoid toys with sharp points or rough edges, especially for younger children.
- Listen to toys that make noise before purchasing them to make sure they are appropriate for your child.
- Ideally, you should always shop at a reputable retailer you know and trust – but if you’re purchasing second-hand toys, inspect their condition and make sure you have the original packaging and instructions.
UNWRAPPED AND OUT OF THE BOX
There are a few simple things families should keep in mind once special occasion gifts are unwrapped and the boxes are open!
- Dispose of all unnecessary toy packaging and gift-wrap as soon as possible (piles of discarded gift-wrap can conceal sharp objects or the edges of hard plastic packaging that can cut small fingers).
- Read instructions carefully; save directions, warranties and assembly hardware.
- Demonstrate the correct way to use a toy or game and make sure your child understands the importance of proper use.
- Always be sure to safely dispose of used batteries and to re-engage the locking mechanism on toys.
- Warn children of all ages to never put magnets in or near their mouths or noses.
- Keep toys with small parts away from children under three and children who tend to mouth objects.
- Keep plush (stuffed) toys out of the cribs of infants and younger children.
- Parents or adults should always supervise play, especially for younger children.
- Store toys safely in an easily accessible storage bin; lidded toy storage should be non-locking and have special safety features such as air holes, spring-loaded hinges and clearances at the hinges to make sure little fingers won’t get caught.
- Keep a separate toy chest for older children whose toys may contain small parts; enlist their help in keeping their toys out of the hands of younger siblings.
- Regularly sort through the toy box to discard (or repair) broken toys.
- Speak to grandparents and other caregivers about toys and safe play; help them become familiar with toy safety tips and the importance of age- and interest-appropriate toys.
SAFETY TIPS FOR NEW PARENTS
Here are some of our top tips for first-time parents (and new grandparents and other family members) to keep in mind when navigating play time with babies, infants and toddlers:
- Read and heed age guidance and other safety information. Most age grading is based on safety and not on how smart a child may be.
- Avoid toys with small parts (or pieces that separate or can be broken off) for children under age three (3) and children who mouth toys.
- Shop at a retailer you know and trust. Exercise caution when buying toys at flea markets, second-hand / thrift stores, etc., as these vendors may not be monitoring for recalled products.
- Inspect toys at the store, looking for sturdy parts that can stand up to the rigors of your child’s play. Second-hand and vintage products should be carefully inspected for wear-and-tear, breakage, sharp edges, etc.
- Remove and discard all packaging from a toy before giving it to a baby or small child.
- Read instructions for assembly and use. Complete and return warranty cards (which are also used if a recall is issued). Keep product literature on hand in case of future questions.
- Supervise children when they play and set good examples of safe play. Remind grandparents, aunts, uncles and other caregivers of play-related safety concerns.
- Choose a safe storage place for toys. Separate toys for older and younger children to ensure that younger children cannot access toys that are too old and potentially unsafe for them. Enlist the assistance of older kids to keep their toys apart from those of younger siblings.
- Check toys at least once every three months to determine their safety. Make any repairs immediately or discard damaged toys.
- Consider placing vintage or collectible toys out of the reach of children as they may not comply with the latest safety standards.
OUTDOOR TOY SAFETY TIPS
Outdoor play is all about being active and having fun! Some of the top tips for families while experiencing the “great outdoors” include:
- Make adult supervision a crucial element of outdoor play.
- Children should never be left alone near water sources (pools, inflatable “kiddie” pools, beaches, etc.). Water toys should be kept out of sight or out of reach when not being used so children aren’t tempted to play in or near the water alone. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has published a complete set of tips and information to help keep kids safe in and near the pool.
- Always keep toys away from unsupervised areas (pools, driveways or streets with traffic) so they don’t lure a child into a dangerous situation.
- Inspect toys regularly and repair (or replace) damaged or broken parts as soon as they’re spotted.
- Be sure to use protective gear (helmets, knee pads and other protective wear) when playing with ALL ride-on toys, including bicycles, tricycles, scooters, skateboards and skates. Visit the CPSC website for additional bicycle safety tips, which include directions for making sure that helmets fit properly and comfortably so kids will keep them on.
- Keep young bodies protected from the sun and heat. Outdoor play areas should be covered to protect sensitive children’s skin from the sun’s intense rays. Children should wear hats, 100% UVA sunglasses, and a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen (UVA and UVB protection) that is water resistant. Sunscreen should be re-applied every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Children should drink plenty of fluids during and after play.
- Organize and store toys to prevent slips, trips and falls. An outdoor shed should be set up with designated “parking” spaces near the door for bicycles and other ride-on toys; smaller items like skateboards and skates should be hung up or stored on shelves to prevent slips, trips and falls.
SAFETY TIPS FOR OTHER OBJECTS AROUND THE HOME
Kids sometimes come into contact with objects in the home (or at a friend’s house) that are not intended to be used as toys. Some of these products pose unique safety risks that can be avoided, including:
Magnets can provide a fun and educational component to a toy. Strict federal standards are in place to assure that certain small, powerful magnets in children’s toys are not accessible to young kids. However, these small magnets (known as "rare earth magnets") are sometimes found in office products or other non-toy items. These magnets pose a serious risk to children if they’re swallowed.
These very small, very powerful magnets should never be given to children, especially those under the age of three, and children of all ages should be instructed to never put these magnets in or near their mouths or noses. Ingestion or inhalation of multiple magnets can pose serious internal injuries, infection and even death.
In the event of magnet ingestion, medical treatment should be sought immediately.
U.S. toymakers abide by a longstanding safety standard requiring that batteries in toys be made inaccessible to young children.
When replacing a battery in a toy, parents and caregivers should carefully re-engage the locking mechanism of the battery compartment and be sure to never leave batteries out and accessible for children.
SMALL PARTS TESTER
A small parts tester is an effective, easy-to-use tool to help prevent children from choking on any number of products that can be found around the home, such as coins, pen caps, button cell batteries, small magnets and more.
Federally mandated small parts regulation was developed nearly four decades ago using research and expertise from the American Academy of Pediatrics, child development experts and members of the toy industry.
The small parts tester is a method for determining whether an object meets those size requirements. Its cylinder mimics the size and shape of a child’s throat — 2.25 inches long by 1.25 inches wide. To test whether an object might pose a choking hazard, place the object without compressing it inside the cylinder. If it fits entirely, it fails the test.
Small parts testers are sold in many toy and children’s stores, including Amazon and Sears.
For more information about toy safety: