Buying guidelines for safe and fun toys

  • Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, August 2, 2012 11:34 a.m.

The right toys can help children develop fine and gross motor skills, imagination, coordination, independence and mastery. The wrong toys or activities can do more harm than good, leading to frustration or regression. Toy-related injuries send tens of thousands of children to the emergency room each year. Most injuries occur when parents give their children toys meant for older children. Although many toy manufacturers follow safety guidelines for their products, some don't. Your challenge is to find toys your children will enjoy and that you know are safe.

These suggestions can help you make the right choice when selecting a birthday or holiday gift for children. You can also visit for more safety tips and recalls.


Watch for small parts Don't give toys with small parts to toddlers. These youngsters tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. Anything that can fit into a film canister or is smaller than a quarter is a choking hazard for young children.

Age appropriate Select toys to suit a child's age, abilities, skills and interest level. Toys that are too advanced can pose safety hazards. A developmentally appropriate toy will foster growth and learning where a toy that is too challenging will cause frustration.

Look for standards Look for the letters "ASTM," which indicate a product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Also, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website for a list of recalled toys and recall alerts.

Is it noisy? Avoid toys that make loud or shrill noise to avoid serious ear injury. Volume controls as well as on/off switches can help as well.

Choose well-made stuffed animals The eyes, noses and other small parts of stuffed animals should be securely fastened. If pieces begin to fall off, remove or sew them back on to avoid a choking hazard.

Hobby kits Never buy hobby kits, such as chemistry sets, for children younger than 12. Provide proper supervision when older children play with such toys. If a child wishes to do a project or hobby kit it should be under the supervision of an adult to ensure that the safety instructions are followed.

Watch the action Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off. Slingshots and high-powered water guns can injure children. BB guns shouldn't be considered toys. All children should be supervised when playing to ensure their safety and well-being.

No heat Avoid toys with electric heating elements. If a toy requires heat for the activity, it should be supervised by an adult at all times to avoid injury.

Inspect toys for solid construction Toys should be made of durable materials, have no sharp edges or points and be able to withstand impact. If a new toy appears broken, return it for a replacement. If a toy becomes too worn or broken it needs to be thrown away to avoid injury.

Read carefully Read instructions carefully and follow suggested age levels. Age labeling is provided for developmental and safety reasons.

Show and tell Explain and demonstrate how to use toys. It is always a good idea for an adult to be present for the first use of a toy to ensure that the child knows rules and instructions for use. Toss it Repair or discard damaged toys.

Keep separate Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger ones. Do your best to keep an older child’s toys that are choking hazards or otherwise dangerous for a younger child secured and out of reach. Have them out in a different room that is not accessible by the younger child or played with when the younger child is not around. How do they play? Don't let children play with toys in dangerous ways. Redirect violent or dangerous play and encourage children to play in a safe and friendly manner. Trash wrappings Discard wrappings immediately. Sharp staples and plastic bags can cause injuries and pose safety hazards. If toys are unwrapped from their packaging at a trash can it ensures the small pieces of the packaging do not end up causing an injury.

If you suspect your child has harmed themselves and needs medical attention, call our Care Connections line at 1-800-335-4921. A highly-qualified nurse will evaluate your needs and quickly advise the best course of treatment, including referral to your physician, an urgent care center or the emergency room.

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