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Is That Toy Safe?

Hundreds of new toys keep appearing at the toy stores much to the delight and enjoyment of children everywhere. Toys are understandably the treasures of childhood for hardly a child does not cherish playing with a favorite toy. However, manufacturers can only do so much to warn parents and users of the potential dangers of certain toys. Ultimately, it’s up to parents or caregivers to ensure the safety of a toy that is offered to a child.

Investigate the making of a toy

Before purchasing a toy, check it thoroughly for buttons, batteries, yarn, ribbons, eyes, beads, and plastic parts that could easily be chewed or snapped off. Make sure all the parts and embellishment of a soft toy are securely sewn on and the seams of the body are reinforced. Ensure too that there are no sharp edges and no paint peeling off the toy.

Practice caution with toys passed down from relatives or siblings or bought at yard sales for these can be worn or frayed, which can sometimes be dangerous.

Are age appropriate tags dependable?

Most toys do carry a “recommended age” sign. You may use this as a starting point in your toy-selecting process. However, do not depend on it, for children are known to misuse toys very often. The best you can do is to observe your child’s playing style and be duly realistic about your child’s abilities and maturity level. Toys that have projectiles and small, removable parts, for example, are never suitable for a child under the age of 4. That being said, even some 6-year-olds aren’t mature enough to handle them safely. Likewise, if your 4-year-old still enjoys putting objects in his mouth, wait a little longer to give him toys and games with small parts and pieces.

Beware of those strings or cords.

Any kind of string or cord is capable of causing strangulation if it gets wrapped around a child’s neck, regardless if a child is playing by himself or with others. An example of this kind of toy is any older model of telephone toys which come complete with those potentially dangerous telephone cords. Newer models, however, are more current and cordless, making them a safer choice.

Hidden toxics

All toys may seem safe, but do make sure that those visually appealing toys you pick up from the toy store are not made from chemicals that can harm your child’s health. Phthalates, or “plasticizers,” are used to make plastic more flexible and durable, and quite unfortunately, these chemicals are found in many toys.

Cadmium, lead, mercury, and arsenic are other chemicals you can find in everything from dolls and action figures to children’s jewelry and stuffed animals.

Try this: Take a whiff of the toy. If you find the slightest odour which puts you off, there is a high possibility that the toy has a high chemical content that you’d rather not have your child playing around with.


Magnets are another hidden hazard in children’s toys. Small and unassuming, they are capable of falling off and being swallowed by a child. It doesn’t help either that most children tend to fiddle and pry on anything that is hard and small on toys, such as magnets, until they fall off.

Hidden dangers of balloons

As harmless as they seem, there are more to balloons than meet the eye. They may be cheerful party decorations and fun to bounce around, but latex balloons are the main cause of toy-related choking fatalities in children. When ingested, uninflated balloons (or pieces of burst balloons) can form a tight seal in a child’s airway and make it impossible to breathe.

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when toy-shopping:

  • Avoid toys with parts that could become pinch points for small fingers.
  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys should be with lead-free paint.
  • Art materials should be tagged or labeled as non-toxic.
  • 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 a baby or toddler, make sure it’s 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.
  • Small ends that can extend into the back of the mouth.
  • Strings longer than 7 inches (18 centimeters).
  • For small kids, think big toys

Until your child has outgrown the urge to put things into the mouth, toys and their parts should be bigger than that little mouth to prevent the possibility of choking. To determine whether a toy poses a choking risk, try this trick: Fit it through a toilet paper roll. If a toy or part of a toy can fit inside the cylinder, it’s not safe for your child just yet.

Physical abilities

Purchasing certain toys, such as a ride-on bike, which is a size or two bigger in hopes of making it last longer is not a good idea. For instance, if you buy a bike one size too big so as not to have to buy a new bike the next year, riding it may be risky for your child, especially if he isn’t physically capable of controlling it properly. Keep in mind too, that toys like ride-on bikes and cars should be comfortable for a child to play with or it would simply defeat its purpose.

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