KEEPING PLAYTIME FUN AND SAFE
These tips from ToyInfo.org’s toy, play and safety experts will help parents and other caregivers keep playtime fun and safe!
SELECTING THE PERFECT TOY FOR YOUR CHILD
Joan Lawrence is the Toy Industry Association’s resident “Toy Safety Mom” … take a trip through a toy store with Joan and hear her top 10 tips to keep in mind when shopping for toys.
Choosing a toy that matches your child’s age and interests is the important first step for safe and fun play.
- When shopping for a toy, be sure to check and follow age guidance and other safety information on toy and game packaging. Remember, the age grading doesn’t pertain to how smart a child is – it’s a safety precaution that is based on the developmental skills and abilities of children at a given age.
- Avoid toys with small parts when shopping for children under age three (3) and children who mouth toys.
- Inspect toys at the store, looking for sturdy parts and tightly secured joints.
- Make sure that batteries in toys are firmly enclosed and inaccessible to children.
- For children under 18 months of age, avoid toys with strings, straps or cords longer than twelve (12) inches.
- Check to see that plush (stuffed) toys have age-appropriate features such as embroidered or secured eyes and noses for younger children, and seams that are reinforced to withstand an older child’s play.
- Avoid toys with sharp points or rough edges, especially for younger children.
- Listen to toys that make noise before purchasing them to make sure they are appropriate for your child.
- Ideally, you should always shop at a reputable retailer you know and trust – but if you’re purchasing second-hand toys, inspect their condition and make sure you have the original packaging and instructions.
UNWRAPPED AND OUT OF THE BOX
There are a few simple things families should keep in mind once special occasion gifts are unwrapped and the boxes are open!
- Read instructions carefully; save directions, warranties and assembly hardware.
- Always supervise play, and demonstrate the right way to use a toy or game. Make sure your child understands the importance of proper use.
- Speak to grandparents and other caregivers about toys and safe play; help them become familiar with toy safety tips and the importance of age- and interest-appropriate toys.
- Keep toys with small parts away from children under three and from children who tend to mouth objects. Keep plush (stuffed) toys out of the cribs of infants and younger children.
- Dispose of all unnecessary toy packaging and gift-wrap as soon as possible (piles of discarded gift-wrap can conceal sharp objects or the edges of hard plastic packaging that can cut small fingers).
- Store toys safely in an easily accessible storage bin; lidded toy storage should be non-locking and have special safety features such as air holes, spring-loaded hinges and clearances at the hinges to make sure little fingers won’t get caught.
- Regularly sort through the toy box to discard (or repair) broken toys.
- Keep a separate toy chest for older children whose toys may contain small parts; enlist their help in keeping their toys out of the hands of younger siblings.
- Always be sure to safely dispose of used batteries and to re-engage the locking mechanism on toys.
- Warn children of all ages to never put magnets in or near their mouths or noses.
OUTDOOR TOY SAFETY TIPS
Outdoor play is all about being active and having fun! Some of the top tips for families while experiencing the “great outdoors” include:
Children are inquisitive and fast, so active adult supervision during play is crucial … particularly for outdoor play that might place a child near vehicles (such as a ride-on toy, bike or trike that’s ridden in a driveway) or any source of water (like a kiddie pool or swimming pool).
- Pay close attention to the age appropriate guidelines on toy product packaging.
Age labeling is a safety precaution and is based on children's developmental skills and ability at a given age – and the appropriateness of the toy for that age. Age labeling does not pertain to the intelligence of a child so you never want to select toys marked with an age older than the child's age.
- Make adult supervision a crucial element of outdoor play.
Children are quick and inquisitive. They should never be left alone near water sources (pools, inflatable “kiddie” pools, beaches, etc.) ... not even for a moment. Water toys should be kept out of sight or out of reach when not being used so children aren’t tempted to play in or near the water alone. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has published a complete set of tips and information to help keep kids safe in and near the pool.
- Buckle children up with helmets, knee pads and other protective gear when playing with ride-on toys.
Most parents are aware that protective gear (helmets, knee pads and arm pads) is crucial when riding a bicycle, but buckling up and protective gear is equally important for other ride-on toys, including tricycles, scooters, skateboards and skates. Visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website for bicycle safety tips to learn how to make sure helmets fit properly and comfortably so that kids will not take them off.
- Keep young bodies protected from the sun and heat.
Outdoor play areas should be covered to protect sensitive children’s skin from the sun’s intense rays. Children should wear hats, 100% UVA sunglasses, and a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA and UVB protection) when playing outdoors. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that all children — regardless of their skin tone — wear water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and re-apply every two hours or as indicated on the label, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Studies show that children do not always experience thirst before dehydration, so it is important that they drink plenty of fluids during and after play, even when they do not feel thirsty.
- Organize and store toys to prevent slips, trips and falls.
Large, plastic bins with lids are perfect for organizing and storing smaller toys; bins should be marked by name so that toys for children of differing ages can be easily separated. An outdoor shed should be set up with designated “parking” spaces near the door for bicycles and other ride-on toys; smaller items like skateboards and skates should be hung off ground-level or stored on shelves to prevent slips, trips and falls.
Always keep toys away from unsupervised areas (pools, driveways or streets with traffic) so they don’t lure a child into a dangerous situation. Inspect toys regularly and repair (or replace) damaged or broken parts as soon as they’re spotted.
NON-TOY PRODUCTS SAFETY TIPS
Kids sometimes come into contact with objects in the home (or at a friend’s house) that are not intended to be used as toys. Some of these products pose unique safety risks that can be avoided, including:
Kids sometimes come into contact with objects in the home or at a friend’s house that are not intended to be used as a toy. Some of these products pose unique safety risks that can be avoided:
Magnets can provide a fun and educational component to a toy. Strict federal standards are in place to assure that certain small, powerful magnets in children’s toys are not accessible to young kids.
However, these small magnets (known as "rare earth magnets"), are sometimes found in office products or other non-toy items. Recent incidents have shown that these magnets pose a serious risk to children they’re swallowed. It is important for consumers to know that these very small, very powerful magnets should never be given to small children, especially those under the age of three years, and that children of all ages should be instructed never to put these magnets in or near their mouths or noses. Ingestion or inhalation of multiple magnets can pose serious internal injury, infection and even death.
In the event of magnet ingestion, medical treatment should be sought immediately.
U.S. toymakers abide by a longstanding safety standard requiring that batteries in toys be made inaccessible to young children.
When replacing a battery in a toy, parents and caregivers should carefully re-engage the locking mechanism of the battery compartment and be sure to never leave batteries out and accessible for children.