Toys are a fun and important part of every child's development. But each year, many kids are treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. Choking is a risk for kids ages 3 or younger, because they tend to put objects in their mouths.

Manufacturers follow guidelines and label most new toys for specific age groups. But the most important thing a parent can do — especially when it comes to younger children — is to supervise play.

Toy Guidelines

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors and regulates toys. Any toys made in — or imported into — the United States after 1995 must follow CPSC standards.

Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for toys:

  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys must use lead-free paint.
  • Art materials should say nontoxic.
  • Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means that they've been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Steer clear of older toys, even hand-me-downs from friends and family. These might not meet current safety standards.

And make sure a toy isn't too loud for your child. The noise of some rattles, squeak toys, and musical or electronic toys can be as loud as a car horn — even louder if a child holds it directly to the ears — and can damage hearing.

The Right Toys at the Right Ages

Always read labels to make sure a toy is right for a child's age. Guidelines published by the CPSC and other groups can help you make those buying decisions.

Be sure to consider your child's temperament, habits, and behavior whenever you buy a new toy. Even a child who seems advanced compared with other kids the same age shouldn't use toys meant for older kids. The age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity.

Read more about choosing safe toys:

Keeping Toys Safe at Home

After you've bought safe toys, it's also important to make sure kids know how to use them. The best way to do this is by supervising kids as they play. This teaches kids how to play safely while having fun.

Parents should:

  • Teach kids to put toys away.
  • Check toys regularly to make sure that they aren't broken or unusable:
    • Wooden toys shouldn't have splinters.
    • Bikes and outdoor toys shouldn't have rust.
    • Stuffed toys shouldn't have broken seams or exposed removable parts.
  • Throw away broken toys or repair them right away.
  • Store outdoor toys when they're not in use so that they are not exposed to rain or snow.

And be sure to keep toys clean. Some plastic toys can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but read the manufacturer's directions first. Another option is to mix antibacterial soap or a mild dishwashing detergent with hot water in a spray bottle and use it to clean toys, rinsing them afterward.

Reporting Unsafe Toys

Check the CPSC website for the latest information about toy recalls or call their hotline at (800) 638-CPSC to report a toy you think is unsafe. If you have any doubt about a toy's safety, err on the side of caution and do not allow your child to play with it.

Back to Articles


Related Articles

Smart Toys for Every Age

An age-wise guide on play and the toys that encourage learning, promote motor skill development, and spark imagination.

Read More

Choosing Safe Baby Products: Toys

All toys you select for your baby or toddler should meet safety standards. These tips can help you find safe toys for your little one.

Read More

Choosing Safe Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers

How can you tell if a small toy poses a choking risk? What types of unsafe toys should you avoid for your baby, toddler, or preschooler? Find out here.

Read More

Choosing Safe Toys for School-Age Kids

Is your 10-year-old crying for a pellet gun? How about that used scooter? For help figuring out what toys are safe and appropriate for older kids, read these tips.

Read More

Play & Learn Center

Play is the building block of childhood. It teaches kids about their world. Here, learn what activities inspire and motivate, and which toys are not only safer, but smarter, too.

Read More

Learning, Play, and Your Newborn

Play is the primary way that infants learn how to move, communicate, socialize, and understand their surroundings. And during the first month of life, your baby will learn by interacting with you.

Read More

Learning, Play, and Your 1- to 3-Month-Old

After learning to recognize your voice, your face, and your touch, your baby will start responding more to you during these months and even give you a smile!

Read More

Learning, Play, and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old

Your infant will learn to sit during this time, and in the next few months will begin exploring by reaching out for objects, grasping and inspecting them.

Read More

Learning, Play, and Your 8- to 12-Month-Old

Your baby is learning more about the world through play and is beginning to use words. Keep those toys and games coming!

Read More

Learning, Play, and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old

Kids go from babies to toddlers during this time, from first steps to walking well. They also make major strides in language and communication.

Read More

Childproofing and Preventing Household Accidents

You might think of babies and toddlers when you hear the words "babyproofing" or "childproofing," but unintentional injury is the leading cause of death in kids 14 and under.

Read More

Toddlers: Learning by Playing

It might look like just child's play, but toddlers are hard at work learning important physical skills as they gain muscle control, balance, and coordination.

Read More

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2019 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

Search our entire site.