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10 Tips for Choosing Safe Toys this Holiday Season

How much time do you spend looking at the labels, fine-print, age-limit, and instructions when buying Christmas toys for children? Although many parents are very cautious about what they buy and give their children during the holiday season, many don’t take into consideration the simple safety hazards of many toys.

As part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, toy manufacturers are now required to abide by many regulations and standards before they can sell their toys. These standards, which were once voluntary, require toy manufacturers to have an independent lab certify that their products meet the new law’s requirements, including lead content, lead paint and small parts. Although the number of toy recalls and toy-related deaths have drastically decreased over the years, many toys still have small safety hazards that are not regulated by law.

In 2010, almost 252,000 toy-related injuries were treated in emergency hospitals, and in 2011, that number was nearly 262,000 (via CPSC.gov).  Of those estimated injuries, 45 percent involved injuries to the head and face–resulting from various lacerations, contusions, abrasions and more.  More than 70 percent of those injuries happened to children under the age of 12, and more than 35 percent happened to children under the age of 5- that’s a pretty alarming stat! Although there are safety standards, it’s easy to see that many toys may still be unsafe.

This holiday season, if your list contains the name of a few good boys and girls, make sure you know the toys you are buying are safe.  Choosing safe and healthy toys can be a difficult task, especially if you don’t know what to look for. So, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 things to look for and consider when buying toys, and some of the best places to buy safe and natural toys!

  1. IS THE TOY AGE-APPROPRIATE?  Recommended ages on products are on the labels for a reason! A toy for a 3 year-old could have parts too small for a 2 year-old to handle. Think about how a child might use a certain toy- older children also put toys in their mouths.  Age recommendations are usually based on safety and the developmental skills of children–think of safety before you think about whether or not the child is sophisticated or developed enough to use a toy. Also consider age of younger siblings when buying toys- children often share toys with their siblings. If you think they will share toys with their younger siblings, make sure those toys are also age-appropriate, especially if the siblings are under the age of 3.
  2. BEWARE OF CHEAP, LITTLE TOYS- It can be tempting to buy cheap, inexpensive, and little toys to use as stocking stuffers–but according to toy safety experts, these kind of toys often present the biggest problems–especially when it comes to choking hazards.
  3. CAN ANY PARTS BE EASILY SWALLOWED? This tip can easily go along with the age-appropriate one, but many products don’t always contain a recommended age.  As a simply rule, if you’re not sure, consider the toilet paper tube test—anything that can pass through the tube is too small to be given to a child under 3.
  4. AVOID TOYS WITH PROJECTILE PARTS - Remember the line from A Christmas Story,  “You’ll shoot you’re eye out!?” Well, many parents and gift-givers still over look those shooting projectiles from propelling toys like toy guns. Toy guns and projectile toys contribute to many eye injuries and abrasions that can cause serious damage.  If you are buying toys with projectile parts, make sure the kids have appropriate eye-protection.
  5. AVOID TOYS WITH SHARP, PROTRUDING EDGES – Sharp and protruding edges can be easily over-looked, especially if they are in a box or package.  Also check all wooden toys for sharp splinters before giving them to children.
  6. IS THE TOY NON-TOXIC?- If the toy is painted, make sure it’s lead-free and has a durable finish. When buying art materials or supplies, make sure they say “non-toxic.” Check the label to make sure that is has the ACMI seal–which means “non-toxic.” Although most toys are regulated for lead and phthalates, many older toys still contain harmful chemicals.  If you are interested in knowing what chemicals and how much a toy can contain, visit HealthyStuff.org.
  7. BEWARE OF TOYS, ACCESSORIES, & ITEMS WITH MAGNETS - Building sets, action figures, dolls, and many more often contain magnets that can be fatal if swallowed by children.  In some situations, magnets can also tear tissues and cause damage to the intestines, which can result in serious injury. Batteries, when swallowed, can also be very harmful and cause serious damage.
  8. COULD THE TOY BE A FIRE HAZARD? – Fabric toys should be labeled as “flame-resistant” or “flame retardant.” Many electrical toys with batteries or electrical plugs can be burn or fire hazard, and should generally be avoided for children under 8.
  9. CAREFULLY READ THE INSTRUCTIONS AND EXAMINE TOYS FOR LOOSE PARTS-   Make sure you carefully read the directions when putting toys together. Assembling a toy incorrectly could lead to loose parts that become choking hazards. Also, regardless if the toy requires assembly, make sure you check and re-check the toy for loose parts! Buttons, eyes, and noses are often the parts that become loose.
  10. STUFFED TOYS BOUGHT FOR CHILDREN SHOULD BE WASHABLE– Stuffed toys may look cute and innocent, but they are prone to germs, dust mites and viruses. Make sure that stuffed toys and stuffed animals are washable and can be properly disinfected, especially for young children and children under the age of 3.

Still Having a Hard Time Finding Safe Toys?

If you’re still having a hard time finding safe toys, we’ve found some great resources that might help you find or make the perfect safe and natural toy!