Just because they’re toys, it doesn’t mean they are all safe!

Well duh! Of course not. That’s just stating the obvious. We all know this. With the millions and millions of toys and games inundating the marketplace, it is inevitable that a lot of nasties are lurking there.

But how often do we take precautions – all or any – when buying toys? We naturally gravitate towards the ones that look the prettiest or the one that looks to be most appealing to our baby and only then do we consider safety. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to say that we do not consider safety to be paramount. I am not saying that we wouldn’t decide against picking up one which could obviously pose a risk, albeit with a twinge of regret. What I am saying is that we are already pre-disposed to forgiving little flaws.

This oversight could have terrible consequences. Ever so often I have thought of how handy it would be to have a checklist ready when I go toy shopping for my babies. It’s simple enough to say toys should meet safety standards. Of course they should. And that’s the first thing we need to look for on the packaging.

What to look for

Check to see if a toy has been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) by browsing their recall page, here.

  • Always follow all manufacturers’ age recommendations. Some toys have small parts that can cause choking, so heed all warnings on a toy’s packaging.

  • Toys should be large enough — at least 1¼” (3 centimeters) in diameter and 2¼” (6 centimeters) in length — so that they can’t be swallowed or lodged in the windpipe. A small-parts tester, or choke tube, can determine if a toy is too small. 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. If you can’t find one of these products, a toilet paper roll can be used for the same purpose.

  • Avoid marbles, coins, balls, and games with balls that are 1.75 inches (4.4 centimeters) in diameter or less because they can become lodged in the throat above the windpipe and restrict breathing.

  • Battery-operated toys should have battery cases that secure with screws so that kids cannot pry them open. Batteries and battery fluid pose serious risks, including choking, internal bleeding, and chemical burns.

  • When checking a toy for safety, make sure it’s unbreakable and strong enough to withstand chewing. Also, make sure it doesn’t have:

    1. sharp ends or small parts like eyes, wheels, or buttons that can be pulled loose
    2. small ends that can extend into the back of a baby’s mouth
    3. strings longer than 7 inches (18 centimeters)
    4. parts that could become pinch points for small fingers
  • Most riding toys can be used once a child is able to sit up well while unsupported — but check the manufacturer’s recommendations. Riding toys like rocking horses and wagons should come with safety harnesses or straps and be stable and secure enough to prevent tipping.

  • Hand-me-down and homemade toys should be carefully evaluated. They may not have undergone testing for safety. Do not give your infant painted toys made before 1978, as they might have paint that contains lead.

  • Stuffed animals and other toys that are sold or given away at carnivals and fairs are not required to meet safety standards. Check carnival toys carefully for loose parts and sharp edges before giving them to your infant.

And finally, a gentle reminder of what NEVER to do

  • Never give balloons or latex gloves to kids younger than 8 years old. A child who is blowing up or chewing on a balloon or gloves can choke by inhaling them. Inflated balloons pose a risk because they can pop without warning and be inhaled.

  • Never give your baby vending machine toys, which often contain small parts.

  • Never keep older siblings’ toys within of the reach of infants