NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Toy Safety for All Seasons

Toy Safety for All Seasons



With the Christmas season comes the excitement of choosing new toys for your children, but how safe are the toys stacked on the shelves in our shops?

Each year, hundreds of toy-related injuries are treated in hospitals and parents are urged to be aware of the three main toy safety risks to small children – choking, damage to hearing, and toxic hazards.

Back in 2008, new legislation gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which closely monitors and regulates toys, more resources to ensure toy safety and required lead levels to eventually be reduced to 100 parts per million.  That recent legislation is one of the reasons we are seeing more toy recalls related to lead content in the news.  It also required manufacturers to label products with tracking information so people can easily find out if the product they own has been recalled.

Consider the following when selecting that special toy for a special youngster.


Make sure to buy age-appropriate toys - All toys are clearly marked if they have small parts. Follow the recommendations on the packaging carefully and do not allow children under age 3 to play with toys belonging to an older sibling.


For Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

-Look for toys that are sturdy enough to withstand pulling and twisting. Make sure that eyes, noses, buttons, and other parts that could break off are securely attached.

- Make sure squeeze toys, rattles, and teethers are large enough that they won't become lodged in a child's mouth or throat, even if squeezed into a smaller compressed shape.

- Avoid toys with cords or long strings, which could present strangulation hazards to young kids.

- Avoid thin plastic toys that might break into small pieces and leave jagged edges that could cut.

- Avoid marbles, coins, balls, and games with balls that are 1.75 inches (4.4 centimeters) in diameter or less because they present choking hazards.

- Since choking is such a big risk in the early years, if your child is 3 years old or younger, consider buying a small-parts tester, also known as a choke tube. These tubes are designed to be about the same diameter as a child's windpipe. If an object fits inside the tube, then it's too small for a young child.  Another comparison is that if a toy or part can fit through a toilet paper tube it is a choking hazard and is not appropriate for children under three.


For Grade-Schoolers

-Bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and inline skates should never be used without helmets that meet current safety standards and other recommended safety gear, like hand, wrist and shin guards. Look for CPSC or Snell certification on the labels.

- Nets should be well constructed and firmly attached to the rim so that they don't become strangulation hazards.

- Toy darts or arrows should have soft tips or suction cups at the end, not hard points.

- Toy guns should be brightly colored so they cannot be mistaken for real weapons, and kids should be taught to never point darts, arrows, or guns at anyone.

- BB guns or pellet rifles should not be given to kids under the age of 16.

- Electric toys should be labeled UL, meaning they meet safety standards set by the Underwriters Laboratories.



Loud toys are a hazard as they can cause hearing loss. If a toy seems loud to you, it is usually even louder to your child. To test it, place the toy as close to your ear as your child would.   If too loud, select a different toy or remove the batteries.


Actively supervise your children - Take an active role while children are playing with any toy that has small parts, moving parts, electrical or battery power, cords, wheels or any other potentially risky component.


Practice proper storage - Teach children to put toys away after playing to help prevent falls and unsupervised play. Also make sure toys intended for younger children are stored separately from those purchased for older children. Toy chests should be equipped or retrofitted with safety hinges that prevent the lid from closing on a child who is leaning over the open chest. If a chest does not have safety hinges, remove the lid.


Check toys regularly. 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 so that they are not exposed to rain or snow.

Check the CPSC website at http://www.cpsc.gov/ 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



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