Which toys are safe for my child?

Kids’ toys come in all shapes, colors and sizes. They’re also made from a wide range of materials such as wood, plastic, rubber, fabric, metal etc. Toys are important for the growth and development of children for a number of reasons. For one, they not only help kids interact and express themselves, they’re also able to provide some level of simulation of aspects of adulthood. This means that, thanks to those toys you got them, your kids are already at life’s dress rehearsals. However, it’s important to know which toys are safe for your child so that you don’t unwittingly place them in harm’s way. This post will help you know the things to look out for as you go toy shopping; so relax and read on.

Potential hazards in toys

Depending on the material, construction and design of a toy, it may present any of the following risks to children:

  • Choking: the small parts that make up many toys are a choking threat to children under the age of 3. A 12-year study, found that more than 90 children died in choking-related events.
  • Poisoning: many things about a toy can make it a poisoning hazard for your child, if they ingest it. For instance, some painted toys may contain lead and some toys may have small magnets that if swallowed could cause serious damage. Another poisoning risk is from toys that may contain liquid substances, like chemicals, that may be ingested by children.
  • Strangulation: toys with pull-strings or cords can cut off air supply to the lungs if they get tightly caught around a toddler’s neck during play or while he/she sleeps.
  • Cuts and injuries from sharp edges and moving parts

The good news is that governments around the world are quite aware of these risks and have prepared regulations and safety standards for toy manufacturers to follow. These guidelines ensure that toys aren’t made from potentially dangerous materials and that they feature safe designs. They also ensure that toys carry appropriate labeling to help parents shop for toys that are safe for their kids. So, how do you tell which toys are safe for your child? Well, that’s what the rest of the post is about.

Your toy safety checklist should include:

Age appropriateness:

According to this article from the American Association of Pediatrics, there’re basically 2 types of age-labeling in toys. The first is the warning label that alerts parents to the possibility of the toy being a hazardous to young children. This may because the toy contains parts that may pose a choking risk to little children. The second is more of an indication of the developmental stage of the child’s faculties which influences their ability to understand and play with the toy. Manufacturers arrive at the latter after a 3rd party assessment of the toy which often includes children. So, pay a little more attention to those age labels when next you’re toy shopping.

Small parts test:

Any toys that contains small balls or small parts – including those that may break off during play like buttons and beads – shouldn’t be considered safe for children under the age of 3. This is because of the fact that children in that age bracket generally have small tracheas, aka windpipes, and airflow through those pipes can easily be obstructed by such small objects. When one considers the fact that at that age, kids are always putting things in their mouths, it becomes easier to see how much of a danger toys with such components are to under-3-year-olds. Using a small parts tester can help you decide if balls, blocks and certain toys are large enough to qualify as safe for your toddler. Check for the dimensions of balls and blocks, if you’re shopping online. Toys with less than 3-centimetre diameters and 6-centimetre lengths are too small.

Construction and Design:

After you’ve determined that the toy is age appropriate and doesn’t pose a choking risk, the next thing you’d like to check for is the sturdiness of the toy and its design. Plastic toys shouldn’t have parts that break easily. Some children are more adventurous than others; if your child is the adventurous kind, there’s a higher chance of those thin parts breaking off and injuring him/her. You should also check for rough or jagged edges as they can cause injury too.

Toys with moving parts present a different sets of risks as hair, fingers and other body parts can get caught and injured. Check to make sure that such motors aren’t exposed. Toys, such as dolls and action figures, with movable joints are safer if those joints aren’t exposed as well.

Check toys for the “nontoxic” labels so that you reduce the chances of poisoning from toys and coloring materials e.g. paints, crayons, pencils etc. Batteries are another potential poisons to kids when ingested. It’s important to check that battery-powered toys have battery compartments that are screwed shut or feature locks that are childproof. For electric toys, check for UL certifications (UL Approved) which shows that a toy has passed flammability and mechanical tests.

Some other tips to check which toys are safe for your child:

2 girl playing with stuffed toys
  • Children playing with chemistry sets and similar toys will need some supervision and putting-through to reduce the chances of fiery reactions. Plus, some of the chemicals may be dangerous.
  • Check for weak or broken seams in stuffed toys. Ensure that all parts are firmly attached.
  • Ensure that your kids have, and use, helmets whenever they’re riding scooters and bicycles. Always supervise them to ensure they’re doing it right and are not riding in areas that have moderate to high motor traffic.
  • Babies can suffocate on stuffed toys so keep them out of their cribs.
  • Store toys properly after use. Toy boxes are better without heavy hinged lids as children can climb in and shut themselves in when they’re looking for toys. They soon run out of air and we all know what comes next.

Older kids are spending less and less time playing with toys and more time on their phones and computers playing games, watching movies and socializing. Their horizons are expanding so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, supervision is just as necessary online as it is offline. Our post on keeping your kids safe online might have the information you need to help you do so effectively.

Your children’s safety and wellbeing are your primary responsibilities. Applying these tips is going to help you decide which toys are safe for your child and ensure that your kid’s play time is as enriching as it should be.

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