It’s the most popular time of the year for buying toys for little one. Toys are the treasures of childhood. But if you're not careful, toys can be hazardous, too. Each year, numbers of kids are treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. Choking is a particular risk for kids ages 5 or younger, because they tend to put objects in their mouths. To keep your child or a child you’re buying for safe, follow these guidelines when choosing toys.
Pick Age-Appropriate Toys: Most toys show a "recommended age" sticker, which can be used as a starting point in the selection process. Be realistic about your child's abilities and maturity level when choosing an age-appropriate toy. Toys that have projectiles, for example, are never suitable for a child under age 4 – and even some 6-year-olds aren't mature enough to handle them. Likewise, if your 3-year-old still puts everything into his mouth, wait a little longer to give him toys and games with small parts and pieces.
Choose toys that are well-made: Used toys passed down from older relatives or siblings or bought at yard sales can be worn or frayed, which can sometimes be dangerous. Check all toys – new or used – for buttons, batteries, yarn, ribbons, eyes, beads, and plastic parts that could easily be chewed or snapped off. Make sure a stuffed animal's tail is securely sewn on and the seams of the body are reinforced. Parts on other toys should be securely attached. Make sure there are no sharp edges and the paint is not peeling.
Think big. Until your child turns 3, toy parts should be bigger than his mouth to prevent the possibility of choking. To determine whether a toy poses a choking risk, try fitting it through a toilet paper roll. If a toy or part of a toy can fit inside the cylinder, it's not safe.
Make sure your child is physically ready for the toy. For example, parents of older kids may buy a bike one size too big so as not to have to buy a new bike the next year. This tactic can lead to serious injury if a child doesn't have the physical skills to control the bigger bike.
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
Avoid toys with small magnets. The CPSC calls magnets a hidden home hazard. Small, powerful magnets are often used in toys, and they may fall out of the toy and be swallowed by a child. Two or more swallowed magnets (or a magnet and a metal object) can be attracted to each other through intestinal walls, twisting and pinching the intestines and causing holes, blockages, infection, or worse if not discovered and treated promptly. Between 2009 and 2011, the CPSC received reports of 22 accidents involving children who swallowed magnets, including 11 incidents that resulted in surgery. The agency recommends keeping toys with magnets away from kids under the age of 14.
Watch out for toxic toys. Even when you find a toy that seems safe, you'll want to be sure it's not made with chemicals that can harm your child. Phthalates, or "plasticizers," are used to make plastic more flexible and durable, and these chemicals are found in many toys. Cadmium, lead, mercury, and arsenic are other chemicals you can find in everything from dolls and action figures to children's jewelry and stuffed animals.
Keeping Toys Safe at Home: 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.
Teach kids to put toys away.
Check toys regularly to make sure that they aren't broken or unusable:
Wooden toys shouldn't have splinters.
Bikes and outdoor toys shouldn't have rust.
Stuffed toys shouldn't have broken seams or exposed removable parts.
Throw away broken toys or repair them right away.
Store outdoor toys when they're not in use so that they are not exposed to rain or snow.
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.
Reporting Unsafe Toys: 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.