McFarland Clinic

How to Choose Safe Toys and Gifts

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December 16, 2019

Young girl shows older woman a stuffed teddy bear toy

The month of December is National Safe Toys and Gifts month, just in time for the holidays. McFarland Clinic Pediatrician Colette Lothe, MD has advice for choosing toys and gifts to ensure everyone has a happy and safe holiday.

Tips for Choosing Safe Toys

  • Check toy label for age limit
  • Look for UL approval
  • Observe toys as time goes on

Check Toy Labels for Safety Information

The most important step of toy shopping is checking the package’s label. Dr. Lothe said there are a few things to check on the package to check it is safe.

Make sure the toy is intended to be a toy, and that the age for the toy is appropriate for your child. Children playing with toys that are not age appropriate may be harmed due to small parts, sharp edges or chemicals used for that toy or activity.

Review the toy label to make sure it doesn’t have a choking hazard, is non-toxic, and is washable.

Lastly, look for the UL approval stamp on the toy’s package. UL is a certification company which tests products to meet specific requirements of safety.

Do a Toy Check-up

Even after toys are given to a child, the toys should be looked over as time goes on. Dr. Lothe said changes in the toys can be dangerous to kids, even if it was originally bought and reviewed as safe.

“Toys can be damaged at any time,” Dr. Lothe said. “It is important to periodically check them for broken or missing parts.”

Look for sharp edges or points on toys; loose parts, cords or strings that could become choking hazards; toys that could pinch a child; and stuffed toys full of beads that open and can be ingested.

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Toys and Products to Avoid

Contact with certain products can cause complications for children.

Button batteries are dangerous to children because they can be swallowed. Children can also stick them in an ear or their nose, Dr. Lothe said.

“A battery that is thought to be ‘dead’ can cause corrosion to the skin around it,” Dr. Lothe said. “If your child has swallowed a battery or put it somewhere it should not be, they need to be seen by a medical professional right away.”

Small magnets should be avoided when getting children a toy. Small magnets can be swallowed, causing a choking hazard.

“If there are two magnets, they can literally pull the intestine together and cause damage, obstruction or life threatening injuries,” Dr. Lothe said.

Avoid toys that children can put in their mouth or run around with, which can result in injury.

Stay award from shooting toys that can cause eye injuries, loud toys that can cause hearing damage, or hobby and chemistry sets for children less than 12 years old.

Crib toys can also be dangerous due to a suffocation risk. All mobiles should be high enough that the child cannot reach them. When the child pushes up or is five months old, mobiles should come down due to strangulation risk.

Safety Tips for Choosing Toys

Looking at age limits on a toy’s package is Dr. Lothe’s first safety tip. These limits indicate which toys are appropriate for a child's age as well as their physical and cognitive capabilities.

For example, babies should be given bigger toys due to the possibility of choking hazards. Check toys for a label about parts that could cause choking.

For children under three years old, "a good rule of thumb is to pick a toy that cannot go through a toilet tissue roll,” Dr. Lothe said.

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