Quick Toy Safety Checklist

by Shellie Spradlin

babyHo! Ho! Ho!.. Here come the holidays! We all know that with holidays come a lot of food, a lot of visiting family and NEW TOYS! It all sounds wonderful doesn't it?

Except...there are many hidden dangers even in toys that claim to be age appropriate. A staggering amount of injuries each year occur from toys.

"Making the right toy selection for a child can be easy when parents are armed with the right knowledge. Each year, more than 3 billion toys and games are sold in the United States and more than half are purchased during the holiday season. In 2002 alone, an estimated 165,200 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Although the majority of toys are safe, some can become dangerous if used incorrectly or if a child that is too young ends up with for a specific gift."

There are many things to take into consideration for when searching for that perfect toy for a child. Here is a list that you can bring shopping for later reference. Watch for and be aware of:

  • Small parts
  • Not age appropriate
  • Unexpected contamination (lead paint or toxic material)
  • Cheaply made toys
  • Inappropriate around younger sibling
  • Long ropes, ribbons or strings (strangulation)
  • Magnets

Think You've Found It? Questions To Ask

While we all wish it was as simple as just seeing a toy, thinking, "Oh, they will like that!" grab it and buy...its just not that simple anymore. It seems that with each passing year the toys become more and more complex. They require many parts and "things that make them go." Most come with batteries or require batteries and with that comes an all new danger.

Even toys for children past the "choke-hazzard" age must be examined closely. Toys for "Ages 4 and up" can have small parts. Remember that not every 4-year-old is at the same stage developmentally. In some instances a toy with small parts or that easily comes apart would be dangerous for some children 4 year olds and up.

Ask yourself a few questions before buying any toy:

  • Does this toy look sturdy enough to handle rough (normal!) play? Even though it says it is age appropriate, is it REALLY? Inspect for small pieces that could break off easily (choking hazard), ribbon (choking hazard), stickers or paint that could contain lead or other toxic material that can be ingested. Always remember that even bigger kids have been known to taste or chew on their toys.

  • Does it require batteries? Could the child remove them easily? Does it have the plates that screw in to keep the batteries secure?

  • What do the reviews say about this toy? Check any commercial toy site for parents reviews of toys. Other good places for feedback are ConsumerReports.org, Epinions.com, and The Toy Review.

  • What does the label say? We read about the food we ingest, why not read about the toys we allow our children to play with?

Look at each toy as if there was something wrong with it. You'll find any flaws easier this way.

What about siblings?

Does the child have siblings that are younger than him/her? What are the chances of them getting the toy?

While you may be buying for a child in the house that is at the appropriate age for a toy with little pieces, you also must consider the one-year-old toddling around. When a wide range of ages live under one roof there has to be concern for those who may find (and eat or poke in ears and nose!) teeny, tiny toys laying around.

If you are buying a toy for a child that is not yours, ie: niece, nephew, or friends child, please ask for specific details about what the child likes and ask for recommendations, as well as precautions that apply to their family. The parents know the child best and can be a great help when determining the best choices for him/her.

Even when using a list that tells specific toys for specific ages, please always be careful. Inspect all toys as specified above and always be aware of younger siblings that will be around. Make sure the older brothers and sisters know to keep their special toys up where tiny hands cannot get them. The number one hazard with toys is choking and we all know what toddlers and babies do when they get something in their hands...taste it!

As the mom of four kids of varying ages, I know these concern too well. While my oldest may be 17, there are still hazards around even with her "toys" (ipod cords and laptop cords). My greatest concern is the toys my youngest daughter loves so much, and the fear that my 7-month-old son will get them. The smallest of toys that have tiny pets to care for or Barbie dolls with shoes, earrings and necklaces. It is important to remember what that toy is for...its for FUN! I try to teach my girls to keep their stuff out of the reach of my son, but accidents happen and toys get dropped.

Toy Recalls

Over the years and particularly in recent months many toys have been recalled. These were found to have small parts, dangerous cords, pieces that fell off easily, surface contaminants, or a different hazard. If you would like to check the toys in your child's toy box, visit the US Consumer Product Safety Commission or sign up for up-to-date emails.

While there are some toys that are not safe or have been recalled, please remember that there are companies out there that produce wonderful, safe toys for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics has published a wonderful list of toys and their appropriate ages.

Always be aware of your children and what they are playing with even if it is suppose to be safe. This is a good opportunity to delve in and interact with your children. The best way to inspect a toy is to try it out yourself! Your kids will love the play time with mommy or daddy and you will enjoy the fun downtime with your kids.

Shellie Spradlin is a long time Pregnancy.org contributor and beloved member. As mom to three beautiful girls, two boys and a 1995 angel baby, Shellie has experienced both the pains and discomforts of pregnancy along with the excitement and joys! Shellie resides with her family in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky.

Copyright © Shellie Spradlin. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.