Nothing can be more fun than buying a toy for a child. The lights! The noise! The pieces! Although it's easy to get caught up in the excitement, the most important thing to keep in mind when running through the toy aisles is not whether or not your preschooler has something already, but the safety of what you are about to buy.
Each year the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) receives hundreds of thousands or reports of toy-related injuries each year. The good news is this number can easily go down.
Parents and caregivers can make sure they’re choosing safe toys for their children by paying close attention to warning labels and manufacturer’s guidelines. With Black Friday and Small Business Saturday coming up this weekend, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when toy-shopping:
- Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Stuffed toys should be washable.
- Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.
- Art materials should say nontoxic.
- Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means that they've been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
- Always read labels to make sure a toy is appropriate for a child's age. For example, a label reading “not appropriate for children under 3” may be present because the toy poses a choking hazard, not because it’s too difficult for a 2-year-old.
If you buy toys secondhand or get hand-me-downs, visit www.recalls.gov to make sure the toy hasn’t been recalled for safety reasons.
For infants, toddlers, and preschoolers:
- Toys should be large enough so that they can't be swallowed or lodged in the throat. Avoid marbles, coins, balls, and games with balls or magnets that are 1.75 inches in diameter or smaller.
- Battery-operated toys should have battery cases that secure with screws so that kids cannot pry them open. This goes for remote controls, too.
- Make sure the toy is unbreakable and strong enough to withstand chewing. Also, make sure it doesn't have sharp ends or small parts like eyes, wheels, or buttons that can be pulled loose, strings longer than 7 inches, and parts that could become pinch points for small fingers.
- Immediately discard plastic wrappings or box-ties from toys, which can cause suffocation or become a choking hazard.
- 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.
- Electric toys should be labeled UL, meaning they meet safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratories.
- Read labels for video games carefully – choose age appropriate games.
Check the CPSC website 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 do not allow your child to play with it. For more safety tips please visit Connecticut Safe Kids at www.ctsafekids.org.