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Toy Safety Guide – What to Look for When Buying Kids Toys
By Paul Coles
Toys are meant to bring fun to children, help them learn more about themselves, the
environment and the people around them. However, if toys are not used the right way,
they can sometimes injure a kid. Parents need to understand that seemingly harmless
toys can be potentially hazardous in the hands of a young person. So, before you
head out to buy kids toys, read this guide and learn what you can do to protect your
little ones from unsafe toys. Don't be sorry, play it safe!
1. Look for good design and quality construction before you purchase any toy. Toys
should not have any sharp edges, spikes, dangerous protrusions, rods, rough edges
You should also avoid thin plastic, glass or metal toys that can break easily, bend
2. Examine closely how toys are assembled. Check for loose hair, poorly attached
buttons, eyes, tails, ribbons, beads and any other attachments that could be snapped
or bitten off accidentally, and cause choking.
If your kid is under 3 years old, you should also consider the size of the toy. Think
big when it comes to choosing toys, decrease potential choking risk by ensuring all
toys and parts are bigger than your kid's mouth and avoid small toys intended for
older children that could easily fit into a young child's mouth.
3. Inspect toys for any movable parts that could trap or pinch little curious fingers
such as doors, slots and springs.
4. Avoid toys that give out extremely loud or shrill noises that can impair or damage
your kid's hearing, and propelled objects that can cause potential eye injuries.
Ask to try the toy in the store before purchasing.
Toy caps and some noise-making guns, and other toys can reach noise levels that can
damage hearing. The law requires the following label on boxes of caps producing noise
above a certain level: "WARNING - Do not fire closer than 1 foot to the ear. Do not
Propelled objects can be turned into danger weapons and can cause eye
injuries. Children should never be allowed to play with adult lawn darts or other
hobby or sporting equipment with sharp points. Arrows or darts used by children should
have soft cork tips, rubber suction cups or other protective tips to prevent injury.
5. When purchasing toys for infants and toddlers, always select toys, puzzles, rattles
and teething toys that are not too small to be swallowed. Be aware of toy rattles
containing rigid wires, sharp points/edges, or small, loose objects that could become
exposed and cause cuts or other injuries.
6. Look for manufacturer's safety information such as "not recommended for children
under 3 years of age," or "non-toxic" on toys likely to end up in tiny mouths, or
"washable/hygienic materials" and "flame retardant/flame resistant" labeling on stuffed
toys, dolls, fabric products and costumes.
Brightly colored toys can pose a dangerous health risk to kids from lead-based paints,
because of young kid's habit of putting things into mouth. Young bodies absorb lead
easily. Lead poisoning can cause long-term mental and physical problems, and in some
cases even deaths.
Look for the letters "ASTM", it means the product meets the national standards set
by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
7. When you purchase stuffed toys, look for toys that are rated safe for infants,
which will ensure specific safety features, such as secure attachment of the stuffed
toys' eyes, noses and non-removable squeaking mechanisms.
Also, make sure that the stuffed toy is machine washable, and double check that all
seams and edges are well sewn. Quickly remove loose ribbons or strings before giving
the toy to your baby to avoid strangulation, and stay away from toys containing small
bean-like pellets or stuffing that can cause choking or suffocation if swallowed.
8. Refrain from buying toys with long strings or cords, which could get wrapped around
a kid and pose as strangling hazard. Cords on dressing up clothing are also a hazard
as they can become lodged in a door or a machinery whilst being worn by your kid.
Also, toys with strings, cords, loops or ribbons of any kind should not be hung in
cribs or playpens. Young kids can become entangled which can cause severe injury
or even death.
If buying a toy with chord is unavoidable, choose one with chord no longer than 7
inches for kids below 3 years of age.
9. Remove and discard plastic wrappings, boxes and bags as soon as the toy is opened,
as these packaging items are a suffocation hazard to young kids. Staples can cause
cuts and plastic wrap can choke or suffocate.
10. Motorized riding toys, electric toys and toys with heavy, sharp and pointed parts
or edges can be especially dangerous for young kids.
11. The Consumer Products Safety Commission is the best and most reliable source
for toy recall information. Consider subscribing to the toy recall RSS to your feed
reader so any updates come to you on time. Keep yourself informed of any ongoing
12. Toys often get used and abused by kids, make it a habit to conduct regular toy
maintenance checks for safety and durability – look out for damaged or broken parts
that may pose a hazard. For instance, splinters on wooden toys, loose eyes or small
parts on dolls, rips or exposed wires in stuffed animals, or rust on metal toys.
Never leave metal toys outside overnight. Rain, snow or even dew may cause them to
rust. Fix or replace any broken parts immediately. A good rule of thumb is, when
in doubt, throw it away – never compromise on your kids' safety.
13. Always remember, there's no substitute for adults supervision. Supervision is
probably the best safety factor you can provide to protect your kid from harm.
It's critical that you watch and set rules for play such as not taking the battery
operated toy in the bath or playing with the toy in a way that it was not designed
to be played with. Explain and demonstrate to your kid how to use the toy safely.
Don't forget to teach kids store toys properly after play to avoid risks or falls.
Toys should be kept on a shelf or in a toy chest, they should be out of the way and
off the floor, to avoid being stepped on or tripped over.
In addition, toys should never be left unattended in potentially dangerous places
such as on stairs or in paddling pools. Teaching your kid to pick up and put toys
away will help him learn to become responsible for his belongings.
Having said that,
I urge parents or guardians to join in the fun – get involved and actively play with
your kids rather than watching them from a distance. Play is definitely more valuable
when you interact with your kids.