Millions of toys are out there, and hundreds of new ones hit the stores each year. Toys are supposed to be fun and are an important part of any child's development. But each year, scores of kids are treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. Choking is a particular risk for kids ages 3 or younger, because they tend to put objects in their mouths.
Manufacturers follow certain guidelines and label most new toys for specific age groups. But perhaps the most important thing a parent can do is to supervise play.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors and regulates toys. Any toys made in — or imported into — the United States after 1995 must comply with CPSC standards.
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for toys:
Steer clear of older toys, even hand-me-downs from friends and family. Those toys might have sentimental value and are certainly cost-effective, but they may not meet current safety standards and may be so worn from play that they can break and become hazardous.
And make sure a toy isn't too loud for your child. The noise of some rattles, squeak toys, and musical or electronic toys can be as loud as a car horn — even louder if a child holds it directly to the ears — and can contribute to hearing damage.
Always read labels to make sure a toy is appropriate for a child's age. Guidelines published by the CPSC and other groups can help you make those buying decisions. Still, use your own best judgment — and consider your child's temperament, habits, and behavior whenever you buy a new toy.
You may think that a child who's advanced in comparison to peers can handle toys meant for older kids. But the age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity.
Here are some age-specific guidelines to keep in mind:
After you've bought safe toys, it's also important to make sure kids know how to use them. The best way to do this is by supervising play. Playing with your kids teaches them how to play safely while having fun.
And be sure to keep toys clean. Some plastic toys can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but read the manufacturer's directions first. Another option is to mix antibacterial soap or a mild dishwashing detergent with hot water in a spray bottle and use it to clean toys, rinsing them afterward.
Many non-toys also can tempt kids. It's important to keep them away from:
Check the CPSC website for the latest information about toy recalls or call their hotline at (800) 638-CPSC to report a toy you think is unsafe. If you have any doubt about a toy's safety, err on the side of caution and do not allow your child to play with it.
Reviewed by: Steve Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: March 2014
|National SAFE KIDS Campaign The National SAFE KIDS Campaign offers information about car seats, crib safety, fact sheets, and links to other health- and safety-oriented sites.|
|U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) This federal agency collects information about consumer goods and issues recalls on unsafe or dangerous products.|
|TOYSAFETY.net This site, which is a project of the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) provides toy safety information for consumers.|
|Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents You might think of babies and toddlers when you hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," but unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 years old and under.|
|Smart Toys for Every Age An age-wise guide on play and the toys that encourage learning, promote motor skill development, and spark imagination.|
|Learning, Play, and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old Your infant will learn to sit during this time, and in the next few months will begin exploring by reaching out for objects, grasping and inspecting them.|
|How TV Affects Your Child Television may seem like a good thing: kids can learn the alphabet and you can keep up with current events on the evening news. But how does TV affect kids?|
|Play & Learn Center Play is the building block of childhood. It teaches kids about their world. Here, learn what activities inspire and motivate, and which toys are not only safer, but smarter, too.|
|What Toys Can Help Improve a Baby's Motor Skills? Find out what the experts have to say.|
|Learning, Play, and Your 8- to 12-Month-Old Your baby is learning more about the world through play and is beginning to use words. Keep those toys and games coming!|
|Choosing Safe Baby Products: Toys Choosing baby products can be confusing with all the gadgets available. But one consideration must never be compromised: your baby's safety.|
|Choosing Safe Baby Products Choosing baby products can be confusing, but one consideration must never be compromised: your little one's safety.|
|Choosing Safe Toys for School-Age Kids Is your 10-year-old crying for a pellet gun? How about that used scooter? For help figuring out what toys are safe and appropriate for older kids, read these tips.|
|Choosing Safe Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers How can you tell if a small toy poses a choking risk? What types of unsafe toys should you avoid for your baby, toddler, or preschooler? Find out here.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.