Child Toy Safety

When buying baby toys, either as gifts or for your own child, choose them with care. Keep in mind the baby's age and interests, as well as his or her skill level. Look for quality design and construction in all toys.

Most manufacturers have labels on the box indicating the appropriate age for that particular toy; for example, "Ages 5 to 8" or "Not recommended for children under 3." Heed all age recommendations.

Look for other safety labels, including, "flame retardant/flame resistant" on fabric products and "washable/hygienic materials" on stuffed toys and dolls. Make sure that all the directions or instructions are clear to you.

To properly maintain toys, check them periodically for breakage and potential hazards. A damaged toy that has become dangerous should be thrown away or repaired immediately. Examine all outdoor toys regularly for rust or weak parts.

Paints and varnishes for baby toys have to be nontoxic and colorfast since everything finds its way into a baby's mouth! Contact the manufacturers with any questions about a toy's ingredients. When repairing toys and toy chests, avoid using leftover paint, unless it has been purchased recently, since older paints may contain lead. Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning, causing serious damage to a baby's brain, kidneys and nervous system.

Toys should not have any sharp corners or edges, rough surfaces or points. Run your hand over toys to make sure they are smooth. Wooden toys should be sanded until completely smooth.

Pearl or beaded necklaces, ribbons and lace are unsuitable for babies. Babies can easily get tangled in them and choke. Also, toys with long strings, cords or loops can become wrapped around a baby's neck, resulting in strangulation. Make sure to remove mobiles completely from your baby's crib before he or she is five months old.

Small objects that babies can swallow, such as marbles, beads, balloons, small balls, game pieces, barrettes and Lego blocks, are also dangerous. They can become lodged in your child's windpipe and completely block their airway. They can also be inserted and become stuck in ears and noses. To test the safety of a toy, invest in a truncated cylinder, which is a clear plastic tube that is available at many stores and is used for testing the safety of certain items. Objects that pass through the cylinder are too small to be given to a child under 3 years old. You can also use a toilet paper tube for a rough approximation of the cylinder.

Foam rubber parts, modeling clay and other items that babies can tear or bite pieces from are dangerous. Balls and other toys made of foam-like materials may be hazardous if the baby bites off pieces and attempts to swallow them. The material has to withstand a baby's sharp teeth!

Make sure that stuffed animals are washable so they won't become a breeding ground for germs, and that they don't have easily removable parts, such as plastic eyes or noses. These parts could become dislodged and find their way easily into a baby's mouth. Also, check squeeze toys to make sure they don't contain a squeaker that will detach, posing a choking hazard.

As for toy chests, use one that has a lid that stays open in any position and will not fall unexpectedly on your baby or toddler. Be sure that there isn't a lid latch that could trap your child within the chest. When purchasing a toy chest, look for one that has ventilation holes or spaces in the front or sides, just in case. Finally, watch for sharp edges that could cut and hinges that could pinch or squeeze baby's delicate skin.

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More Baby Safety and Child Proofing Tips

Safety Latches and Locks
Corner and Edge Bumpers
Safety Gates
Outlet Covers and Outlet Plates
Door Knob Covers and Door Locks
Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detector
Anti-Scald Devices
Window Blind Cords/Safety Tassels
Smoke Detectors
Door Stops and Door Holders
Window Guards and Safety Netting
Cordless Phones