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Toy safety

When purchasing new toys, follow the age guidelines on the packaging. Infant toys must have no tiny parts that pose choking hazards, and nothing on a baby toy should be sharp or detachable. Infants explore objects with their mouths, so anything baby picks up should be too big to fit down the hatch. The more chewable and unbreakable a toy is, the safer your baby will be.

Toy safety checklist
Toys and games are meant to make playtime fun for your child. But unless you carefully select and check the toys that your child plays with, they may be dangerous. Accidents can easily happen when inappropriate toys are given to children, or otherwise safe toys are given to children too young or small to use them properly. Be especially watchful if you have an older child, or your baby spends a lot of time with older cousins or other children. Those puzzle pieces and small construction blocks that are perfectly fine for a six- or seven-year old can be deadly for a toddler.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended age levels on the toy’s package. These labels are designed for your child’s safety, not just his developmental or intellectual abilities. And teach your child how to play with the toy according to instructions. While you don’t want to stifle his creativity, a perfectly safe toy can become a hazard to a child if it’s misused.

What to avoid
Infants should not be given toys that have the following:
  • Sharp points, edges, or glass parts.
  • Any parts that could pull off or fit into a child’s nose, mouth or ear, like the eye of a stuffed animal or a small ball or building block. The same thing goes for stickers or similar toys that your child could accidentally swallow and choke on.
  • Lead paint or other toxic materials. Remember that young babies explore their world through their mouths, and there’s a danger if your child could swallow or lick off these potentially harmful substances.
  • Hinged parts that could pinch or catch small fingers. That goes for toy chests and storage containers as well.
  • Strings, ropes, ribbons or cords on toys can get tangled around small necks. Either cut these pieces off pull toys, or put the toys away until your child is older.
  • Stuffed toys that are filled with beans or other small objects that could choke your child if the toy develops a rip or hole.
  • Garage sale toys.

Other toy safety reminders

  • If you’ve installed a cot gym or mobile, remember to remove these toys before your child can pull himself up (usually before five months).
  • Avoid toys that make loud, high noises that can damage your child’s hearing.
  • If you buy electric toys, they should run on batteries, not cords, and should only be used when an adult is around.
  • When your child gets a new toy, immediately discard any of the original packaging, as the staples and plastic wrapping could hurt your child.
  • Be careful not to leave uninflated or broken balloons lying around the house. It’s easy for a child to choke on these balloons. Balloons, in general, require supervision and should be avoided.
  • Check your child’s toys every now and then for wear and tear that could be dangerous.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education