Toys can help our children develop motor skills, helps their imagination blossom, inspire learning, encourage movement, and foster creativity. While most toys are safe and fun, others can have hidden safety risks. Follow these guidelines to evaluate if a toy has safety issues.
Pick age-appropriate toys
Check toys for age guidelines and warning labels, like "not suitable for children under three” or “adult supervision required.” Make sure to read all instructions carefully that are included in the box and on the toy packaging and assemble according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Make sure the toy is made of non-toxic materials
One of the risks of buying cheap counterfeit toys is that they can be made of materials that can be toxic, especially if your child puts it in his mouth. (And babies and toddlers tend to put everything in their mouths!).
- Lead. According to the Center of Disease Control, Lead has been linked to kidney damage, learning and growth delays, and more. It can be found in paint, metal alloys used in costume jewelry, or in the production of some plastic toys. Reputable toy brands will use lead-free paint or plastic, but beware of Chinese counterfeits. According to What to Expect: “Chinese-made toys came under attack a few years ago for having high levels of lead paint — and more than nine million of them were recalled. Because China’s product quality control isn’t as strict as it is in the US, it’s smart to steer clear of toys made in China.”
- PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Some teething rings and other soft bendable toys are made of a particular plastic called PVC. When PVC is made, phthalates are added to make it flexible. Unfortunately, some studies link this – and other compounds in PVC – to asthma, allergies, and liver and kidney damage (Canadian Childcare Federation). Look for toys that are labelled PVC-free or phthalate-free. You can also use your nose: PVC also tends to have a strong plastic smell.
- BPA and bisphenols. BPA is a hormone disruptor and has been linked to a higher risk of cancer. While banned in the US and Europe for baby products used for eating (like bottles, pacifiers, and teethers) be careful about unknown brands that do not submit their toys for approval. It is sometimes used in bath and pool toys, outdoor toys, and toy jewelry, but the health risk is significantly lower if the child does not put those toys in his mouth.
- Formaldehyde. This toxic chemical is sometimes used in paint, or in water-proof or wrinkle-resistant fabrics (like those used for making dolls or stuffed toys). Get toys that use water-based paint and are certified formaldehyde-free. “Check the fabrics of the toys: if it doesn’t get wet or wrinkled, find out how they achieved this,” says TheTot.
Check for choking hazards
Choking is a risk for kids ages 3 or younger because they tend to put objects in their mouths. You can download this DIY Choking Check, which is a printable cylinder: anything that fits on top of the top end can get lodged into a child’s throat.
Also avoid: marbles, games with balls that are smaller than 1.75 inches, or toys that have parts (buttons, magnets, etc) that can break off or become loose.
Balloons are the number one choking hazard for children. We should never let a child under three play with balloons unsupervised.
Separate children’s toys
Your older children may have toys with small accessories like doll clothes, beads, car parts, etc. Teach them to keep those out of your toddler’s reach. My kids are 7 years old and 2 years old, and they have different toys. My eldest can play with dolls and dollhouses, art materials, and toy kitchens. She can share some of her toys, but we still need to check if they’re safe for her younger sister.
Look for these safety guarantees
Some toys will have extra certifications that prove that the toy has been tested and proven safe and free of toxins. These can include:
- ASTM International label, especially if it has the code F963 on it. This means that the toy meets US safety standards.
- 100% PVC-free label, or has the number 1,2 and 4 (an indication that the plastic is made from
- polyethylene, which is BPA- and phthalate-free)
- Organic wood or bamboo toys and Organic cotton or hemp fabric. Aside from being free of formaldehyde, the cloth is made from a plant that was not exposed to insecticides or feritlizers.
Children can have a lot of fun playing with their toys. Toys are wonderful for encouraging development, creativity, and imagination. However, it's important to keep in mind that safety should always come first. The most important thing a parent can do — especially when it comes to younger children — is to supervise play. Get in there and play with your kids. It's part of the fun of being a parent.
About The Writer
Lally Gonzales is a mother of two adorable kids and a wife to a very loving husband. She graduated from Rizal Technological University with Bachelor Degree in Education major in Computer in 2001. She worked at Golden Pizza Inc. for 15 years as cashier, restaurant finance staff, and purchasing manager.
In March 2015, she became a full-time mom and has been working from home for 5 years. She handles the Facebook page of a local brand as an online community manager. She is also a very passionate mommy blogger, she shares her life and experiences as a mom on her website www.lallysreflections.com. You can follow her at @lallysreflections.