The holiday season is here and for many kids that means one thing: toys. Approximately 50 percent of all toy purchases in the United States occur between the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas. Do you know which toys out there are naughty and nice? Here is my top ten tips for finding safety toys – particularly for babies and toddlers!
- Is the toy age-appropriate? It’s necessary to stick to the age guidelines indicated on toy packaging. In many cases, a toy for a 3-year-old could have parts too small for a 2-year-old to handle correctly. In addition, toys are marked by age to help you understand what may or may not be developmentally appropriate for your child.
- Are there any small, loose parts that your child can swallow? You would be amazed at the things kids will put in their mouths that can cause devastating effects. If you’re not sure if something is too small try the “toilet paper tube test.” Anything that can pass through the tube is too small to be given to a child younger than 3 years old. Marbles, coins and balls are common offenders. Also, make sure that any buttons, eyes and noses are tightly secured on the toy. And because little kids love to chew their toys, avoid toys with small pieces that could be gnawed off.
- Does the toy have a string, ribbon, straps or cord longer than 7 inches? For young children, avoid these toys or remove the strings to prevent strangulation.
- Is your toy non-toxic? Check to make sure the toy has a non-toxic, durable finish and check art supplies for the ACMI (Art and Creative Material Institute, Inc.) seal—this means its non-toxic.
- Could any part cut small hands or fingers? Look for points, edges or breakable parts that could be sharp and avoid those toys for kids younger than either. These toys can also be dangerous if stepped on by bare feet.
- Does the toy include magnets? Building sets, action figures, puzzles or dolls containing small, powerful magnets can be fatal is swallowed by children. Check for any hidden magnets before purchase.
- Could the toy be a fire hazard? Fabric toys should be labeled as flame retardant or flame resistant. And electrical toys with batteries or electric plugs pose a burn hazard so they should be avoided for kids younger than eight.
- If you’re considering a ride-on, is it sturdy and stable? And, does the recipient have all the proper safety equipment (helmet, kneepads, etc.) required to use it? You should answer “yes” to all of these questions if you are going to purchase a ride-on gift.
- Does the toy include any throwing or shooting projectiles? It’s best to avoid these toys because they can cause injuries, especially to the eyes (and probably your wall hangings).
- Could the toy contain questionable chemicals? Phthalates have been banned in children’s toys and children’s care articles since February 2009 and stricter standards are in place for lead and other potentially toxic chemicals, too. But if you want to know about any trace amounts of these types of chemicals, look up levels for specific toys on HealthyStuff.org.
One last consideration is whether or not the toy has been recalled. Always double check product recalls online at the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission before you wrap, especially if you purchased a toy months before the holiday. In addition, some larger child products can be “registered” with the manufacturer in case of a recall. Be sure to do this so you can be the first to know if that product was recalled.