How to Choose Toys for a Child

Children's Toy Safety

There are federal standards for toy safety, but parents still need to review their children's toys.
There are federal standards for toy safety, but parents still need to review their children's toys.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

Once you're familiar with toy safety issues, you can find good toys at local yard sales or thrift shops. Some parents even set up informal toy libraries, or exchange systems. As for new toys, many safe, good toys are available in a wide range of prices, and it doesn't make sense to invest a lot of money in a toy that is appropriate for only a short time.

Every year more than 150,000 children receive injuries from toys that cut, puncture, burn, shock, or choke them. Many times the cause is a lack of supervision, misuse of the toy, or use of a toy that is not age-appropriate.

While there are mandatory federal standards and voluntary industry standards for toy safety, these are no guarantee of safety, since safety testing is only performed at random or after children experience injuries from a particular toy. So you, the consumer, need to do your own testing before you purchase a toy for a child.

Before buying a toy, consider the following aspects of its construction:

  • Strong construction: Try to pull off eyes, buttons, parts, pieces, and ornaments to be sure a small child cannot pull them off and choke on them.
  • Fragility: Make sure the toy won't shatter if it is dropped or thrown onto a hard surface from a child's height.
  • Paints: New toys must be painted with non-toxic paints, but antiques or hand-me-downs may not be coated with a safe paint.
  • Cloth and stuffing: These should be flame-resistant.
  • Sharp or pointed edges: Run your fingers over metal or plastic pieces to see if they cut or scratch. File down any sharp ridges on molded plastics. On wood toys, be sure no edges are splintering. Be sure there are no points or propelling objects that could cause eye or puncture injuries.
  • Stability of sitting toys: Place these large toys on the floor and try to push them over. They should be broad-based for stability.
  • Nonelectric: Avoid electric toys for toddlers since they may attempt to eat batteries or they may get hurt while attempting to plug in or unplug the toy. Toys that have heating elements are unsafe for children younger than eight years old.
  • Hardware: Make sure hardware is not rough and does not have a scissoring action that could pinch.
  • Noise: Activate toys that make noise and be sure they won't damage hearing if babies hold them close to their ears. Avoid any toy that emits a continuous, loud pure tone; such a noise can damage the ears. Teach your child to keep all noise-making toys away from her ears. Toy guns (which many parents avoid on general principle) can cause ear damage even when used properly.
  • Parts: Make sure the toy has no parts small enough for a child to ingest. Be sure any moving parts are securely enclosed.
  • Strangulation dangers: Ropes or strings on toys should be no longer than 12 inches and loops should not be big enough to fit around a child's neck.

When selecting outdoor play equipment, purchase equipment appropriate for your child's age and size. There should be no rough edges or exposed hardware. Make sure these toys are assembled properly, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Place swings at least six feet from houses, trees, and other obstructions, and set them on soft surfaces, not concrete. Fill sandboxes with fresh, clean sand, and cover them when not in use. Sandboxes are not recommended for children in the "let's-taste-everything" stage of development. For reasons of sanitation, keep pets away from the sandbox.

However, even a perfectly safe toy can be dangerous if it is too advanced for a child. In the next section, we will learn about age-appropriate toys.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.