To make sure a toy is appropriate for your young child, check the label. In general, most toys on the market today are safe. But injuries still happen in spite of government regulations and toy makers' efforts to test products. The first step in preventing toy-related injuries is to know what to look for.
Toy makers follow the guidelines established by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in determining the age grading of a toy. The CPSC now requires labeling on toys that are designed for children between the ages of 3 and 6, but can pose a choking hazard for children under age 3. The labels must specifically state that the toy is unsafe for children under age 3 and the reason for the warning.
The age recommendation on a toy reflects the safety of a toy based on 4 categories:
The physical ability of the child to play with the toy.
The mental ability of a child to know how to use the toy.
The play needs and interests present at various levels of a child's development.
The safety aspects of a particular toy.
Families with children of different ages should remember that toys for older children could be dangerous to younger children. To prevent toy-related injuries or death, take these safety steps:
Tips to prevent choking:
Don't let your toddler (ages 3 and under) play with small toys and parts. Children in this age group still "mouth" objects. This can cause them to choke on small objects. A small parts tester can help figure out if an object is a choking risk.
Make sure that the toy is sturdy and that no small parts (such as eyes, noses, buttons, or other parts) can break off the toy.
Don't allow your child to play with latex balloons.
Check under your furniture and between seat cushions for choking risks. These include coins, marbles, watch batteries, buttons, or pen and marker caps.
Don't let your child play on bean bag chairs that contain small foam pellets. If the bean bag chair rips, your child can inhale and choke on the pellets.
Be aware that an arrow, dart, or pellet can be a choking hazard when shot into a child's mouth.
Look out for toys that have small batteries (particularly button batteries) or loose magnets. These can cause serious injury if put in the mouth, nose, or ears of your child.
Tips to prevent falling or drowning:
Keep riding toys away from stairs, traffic, and bodies of water.
Watch your child while playing on a riding toy. Make they fit correctly on the toy.
Never use water toys (water wings, inflatable toys, or rafts) in place of U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
Tips to prevent suffocation and strangulation:
Remember to get rid of any plastic wrapping the toy came in. Plastic wrapping can suffocate a small child.
Don't let babies get to string longer than 7 inches—especially from hanging objects in cribs and playpens. They can strangle an infant.
Remember that strangling may happen if a string, rope, or cord from a toy gets tangled around a child's neck. Long objects can be deadly if your child falls or gets tangled up in them while in a crib.
Be alert for loose or long parts of clothing, such as dangling hood cords. These could also strangle your child when tangled or hooked on playground equipment.
Tips to prevent other injuries:
Eye injuries often result from toys that shoot plastic objects or other flying pieces.
Playing with electric plug-in toys or hobby kits may result in serious injuries. Burns and shocks may result from frayed cords, misuse, or prolonged use.
Chemistry sets and other hobby kits may contain toxic substances or materials that can catch fire and cause serious skin and eye injuries. They can also cause burns, explosions, or poisoning.
Injuries also can result from snapping or machine-gun noises made by some toys. Noise levels that are higher than 100 decibels can damage your child's hearing. Caps are dangerous if used indoors or closer than 12 inches from your child's ear.
Toy chests and other storage containers can cause serious childhood injuries. They can pinch, bruise, or break tiny fingers and hands when a lid closes suddenly. Your child also can suffocate if trapped inside a toy chest.
Have your child wear a CPSC-certified helmet when using riding toys or equipment, such as scooters or skateboards.
In addition, to protect your child from injury, always watch them when playing with toys.
For more information about toy safety, contact the CPSC, Office of Compliance, at 800-638-2772, or at their website saferproducts.gov/.