WHAT IS A SAFE TOY?Who is responsible for ensuring safe toys?
Guidelines for selecting safe toys
Suggestions for age-appropriate toys
What should I do if my child is injured by a toy and how can I find out which toys have been recalled?
Toys are a big part of the fun of being a child. We anticipate that toys will enhance a child’s playtime and we never expect that a child’s toys could cause injury. Statistics however tell us a different story. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, at least 13 children died in 1996 while playing with toys. Furthermore, 140,700 persons were treated in hospital emergency rooms in 1996 for toy-related injuries, 47% of those treated, or 65,600 were children under the age of five.
In the not too distant past there was little that was done to ensure that toys were safe. All of that changed in 1994, when Congress passed The Child Safety Protection Act (CSPA). This public law required toy manufacturer’s to place warning labels on toys containing small parts, including balls, marbles, and other choking hazards. The label must state that the toy is not intended for use by children under the age of three. Additionally, the CSPA increased the size of banned small balls permitted in toys, because of the choking hazard associated with round objects.
Even though the Consumer Product Safety Commission now oversees toy safety, parents and other adults must take responsibility for making sure that their child’s toys are safe. Each year, despite the enactment of The Child Safety Protection Act, several toys that have already hit the market are recalled after a child is injured while playing with them.
The most important consideration when selecting toys is the child’s age and developmental level. Too often, over zealous parents and friends, select toys that are inappropriate for a child's age and skill level. Most manufacturers’ now include a recommendation for the age level to which the toy is appropriate (this recommendation usually appears on the outside corner of the toy). A toy that is too advanced will probably be misused and the likelihood of injury will increase.
Choking remains the leading cause of toy deaths; most often involving ingested balloons, balls, and small toy parts. Carefully inspect a toy before purchasing it. All of the toy parts should be larger than a child’s mouth, so that no part of it can be accidentally swallowed. Some retailers sell a cylindrical tube that serves as a reference when selecting toys. If a piece of the toy can fit through the tube, it could also fit into the mouth of a child.
Inspect toys for quality construction and design before buying them. Check to see that small parts on stuffed animals or soft toys are securely fastened. Avoid toys with sharp or pointed edges.
Read the instructions for use before purchasing toys. Make sure that they are clear and will be understood by the child. Too often, children see toys advertised on television that look simple to set up and play, but in reality require more skill than the child possesses.
Discard all plastic wrappers that accompany toys. They pose a risk for suffocation when children place them over their heads.
Consider the noise level of the toy. Some toys, like caps and guns, can produce sounds at noise levels that can damage hearing. The law requires that the following label be placed on boxes of caps producing noise above a certain decibel: "Warning- Do not fire closer than one foot to the ear. Do not use indoors."
Toys that shoot small objects into the air pose a risk for eye injury. Too often children place objects not intended for firing into dart guns and thus create weapons capable of inflicting harm.
When shopping for infants or very young children, do not select any toys with long strings or cords attached. The cord or string can easily become wrapped around a small child’s neck and cause strangulation. Do not ever hang toys over a crib or playpen using ribbon or rope, since an infant can easily become entangled in them.
Toy boxes can be dangerous if a child falls inside and suddenly becomes trapped. Only purchase a toy box that has a lid that will stay open in any position. For added safety, look for a toy box that has ventilation holes for fresh air. Never use pieces of furniture not intended for use as a toy box (chests, cedar boxes or other cabinets) for storing toys, especially if a small child could easily climb inside and get trapped.
Be cautious when selecting electric toys. Toys with heating elements can result in burns in younger children and they are not recommended for children under age 8. Even older children require adult supervision when using many electrical toys.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following list of toys for children of specific age groups. It can be used as a guideline when choosing toys for children.
Newborn to 1 year old
Choose toys that will appeal to a baby’s sight, hearing, and touch. Examples include:
Pots and pans
Soft, washable animals, dolls or balls
Bright, moveable objects that are our of the infant’s reach
Floating bath toys
1 to 2 years old
Children of this age are quite curious. Toys for this age group should be safe and able to withstand a toddler’s manipulation. Examples include:
Clothe or plastic books with large pictures
Push and pull toys (without long cords)
2 to 5 years old
Children this age like toys that imitate the activities of parents and older siblings. Examples include:
Books (short stories or action stories)
Blackboard and chalk
Crayons, non-toxic paints, clay
Hammer and bench
Puzzles with large pieces
Transportation toys (tricycles, cars, and wagons)
Outdoor toys (sand box, slides, swings, and playhouse)
5 to 9 years old
Children this age enjoy toys that promote skill development and creativity. Examples include:
Sewing kits with blunt scissors
Doctor and nurse kits
10 to 14 years old
Children this age often have hobbies and they enjoy toys with scientific activities. Examples include:
Sewing, needlework, knitting
Sports equipment (basketball and soccer nets)
Table and board games
Hobby collections (dolls, model cars, miniatures)
If you believe that a toy is hazardous, or if your child has been injured by a toy, write to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C., 20207, or call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-638-2772.
To get information about specific toys that have been recalled, contact the CPSC
Child Safety Protection Act Fact Sheet
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
The American Academy of Pediatrics
The Child Safety Protection
Act Public Law 103-267, June 1