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Choosing Safe Toys for
Infants and Toddlers

December is here, the season for giving gifts, and who doesn’t love shopping for toys for young children? Giving toys to beloved little ones and watching their faces light up are among the greatest joys of the season.

Although the holidays are a joyous time, they also are a time to remain vigilant about young children’s safety. At Childbirth Graphics, we offer educational materials to teach parents and caregivers year-round about infant and toddler safety in our product sections devoted to safety and early parenting.

Last year, Childbirth Graphics’ December article discussed holiday safety for babies and toddlers, offering tips to help keep little ones safe over the holidays. This year, our spotlight is on choosing safe toys for young children during the holiday season.

Toys provide more than just a fun way for children to spend time because they also can help children develop physically and socially. But thousands of children suffer toy-related injuries each year, which means safety must be the primary concern. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates toys for safety and offers guidance when selecting toys for children. Special consideration must be given when choosing toys for children age 3 and younger. Infants and toddlers tend to explore objects by putting the objects in their mouths, which puts young children at risk for choking.

Tips for Selecting Safe Toys

  • Read labels when purchasing toys to make certain that the age level is appropriate. The age level of a toy is determined by safety factors, not by a child’s level of intelligence. For this reason, toys for an older age level should not be given to younger children who seem more advanced for their age.

  • Avoid small toys or toys with small parts. Government regulations stipulate that toys for ages 3 and younger should be at least 1¼" (3 centimeters) in diameter and 2¼" (6 centimeters) in length to prevent them from being choking hazards. You can check whether a toy or toy part is a choking hazard by using a small-parts tester or a choke tube. If you can’t find a small-parts tester or a choke tube, try placing the toy or toy part into a toilet paper roll. If the item fits inside the roll, it is not safe for a young child. Toys with marbles, small balls, or small game pieces are not appropriate.

Our Your Baby’s First Year Booklet discusses toy safety
and childhood development during a baby’s first year.

  • Steer clear of toys with button batteries or magnets. Serious injury, including hearing loss, can occur if a child puts a button battery into the nasal cavity or ear canal. Swallowing a button battery or high-powdered magnets can cause serious injury or even be a fatal to a young child. Seek immediate emergency assistance if you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery or magnets.

  • Watch the noise level. Loud toys can harm a child’s hearing.

  • Avoid balloons for children under the age of 8. Balloons and latex or vinyl gloves can be choking hazards if a child inhales them while trying to blow them up. An inflated balloon also is a risk because it can pop or become deflated and then be inhaled.

  • Check toys for additional hazards. Toys should be unbreakable and capable of withstanding chewing. They shouldn’t have any sharp edges, parts that can fall off, or parts that could extend into the back of a baby’s mouth. Toys also shouldn’t have strings longer than 7" (18 centimeters) because the strings can wrap around a child’s neck and cause strangulation.

  • Be mindful about crib toys. To reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a baby’s sleep area should be kept bare and free from stuffed toys, pillows, quilts, blankets, and other items. Hanging crib toys (such as mobiles and crib gyms), need to stay out of a baby’s reach and be removed by the time the baby is able to push up on his or her hands and knees or by 5 months of age, whichever comes first. (To read more about infant sleep safety, click here.

Our English/Spanish Loving Baby Care: Sleep Safety Tear Pad
provides clear steps to create a safe sleep environment.

  • Be careful about homemade or hand-me-down toys. Older toys may not meet current safety standards. For example, older painted toys may contain lead paint.

  • Look for toys that match a child’s developmental skills and promote the building of new skills. Toys such as shapes, blocks, and puzzles are great for young children’s brain development and promote problem-solving skills. Toys that encourage the imagination (such as dolls, stuffed animals, cars, planes, play food, and more) help children learn to be descriptive and enhance social and emotional development.

  • Choose toys that involve human interaction instead of electronic versions of those toys. Traditional board games, books, and letters keep young children involved with others, which is key for their development. Research suggests that young children gain more from printed books than e-books, and parents tend to be more interactive with their children when sharing a printed book instead of an e-book.

  • Select toys to encourage physical activity, such as push-and-pull toys, balls, and ride-on toys. Always follow a toy manufacturer’s guidelines for use. Ride-on toys should not be used until children can easily sit up without support. Riding toys, such as rocking horses or wagons, should be sturdy and unable tip over and have safety harnesses.

  • Avoid gifts that make use of screen time (such as a television, computer, or tablet.) It is recommended that children under the age of 2 not have any screen time. Any screen time for children 2 or older should be limited to less than 1 hour per day.

To ensure their safety, young children should always be supervised during play. Parents should consult their child’s healthcare professional and follow the guidance of their child’s healthcare professional about toys and play safety.

Our Mama, Make Me Safe Pamphlet/Poster
provides childproofing tips for year-round safety.

More Educational Materials for Child Safety

To discover our child safety and parenting educational materials to help keep young children safe throughout the year, please check out our Safety and Parenting Education product sections.

©2019 Childbirth Graphics®