Buying the right toys for babies, toddlers and preschoolers

Santa’s not the only one who should be checking his list twice. Parents and grandparents should too – especially if they have little ones on their list.

Each year scores of kids ages 3 and younger are treated in hospital ERs for toy-related injuries such as choking. That’s why you should always buy age-appropriate toys for your little ones.

“Warning labels and product guides set age limits and other restrictions for a reason,” said Akron Children’s injury prevention coordinator Lisa Pardi, RN, MSN. “Parents should really pay attention to these manufacturer labels when they’re shopping for toys. But just as importantly, they should always supervise their child’s play.”

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors and regulates toys. Any toys made after 1995 must comply with CPSC standards.

Pardi suggests you keep these guidelines 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 they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Another thing to keep in mind is the noise level of the toy. Some rattles, squeak toys, musical and electronic toys can be as loud as a car horn – even louder if a child holds it directly to his ears.  If you have to shout to be heard 3 feet away, the noise could be damaging your child’s hearing.

You should also consider your child’s temperament, habits and behavior when buying a new toy, and use your best judgment.

“You may think your child can handle toys that are meant for older kids, but the age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity,” Pardi said.

Here are additional guidelines:

  • Make sure toys are large enough so your child can’t swallow them or get them lodged in her windpipe. A good way to measure this is with a toilet paper roll. If you can fit the object inside the roll, it’s too small.
  • Make sure battery-operated toys have battery cases that secure with screws so your child can’t pry them open.
  • Make sure the toy is unbreakable and strong enough to withstand chewing.
  • Don’t buy toys that have sharp ends or small parts like eyes, wheels or buttons that can be pulled loose.
  • Avoid toys with parts that could become pinch points for small fingers.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for riding toys. Also make sure rocking horses and wagons come with safety harnesses or straps and are stable and secure enough to prevent tipping.

For more information, download the Safe Kids’ guide, “Finding suitable toys for your children.”


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