Kids of all ages are naturally curious and want to try new things, so safety is important when choosing toys.
Providing kids with the right toys will provide hours of fun and beneficial play! But the wrong toys can be hazards.
Toy problems could include:
- toys with small parts could be choking hazards to toddlers
- kits with chemicals could be toxic if mishandled
- projectile toys could cause damage
- poorly constructed toys could cause injury
- magnets and battery buttons could cause intestine problems if swallowed … and that's painful!
Australia is a wonderful place to be and toys sold in Australia need to meet high safety standards (AS/NZS ISO 8124) plus Codes of Practice. However, we can’t assume all toys for sale are safe for every child, especially younger children. So when selecting toys we need to make good choices.
Here are 15 tips for parents to help kids to play safely with toys. We've added some checklists too which you can print or share.
How to choose safe toys
TIP 1: CHOOSE AGE-APPROPRIATE TOYS
Read the toy package or label to look for an age guide. Most toys are designed for a particular development age and we need to take the recommendations seriously.
TIP 2: FOR KIDS UNDER 3, AVOID SMALL PARTS
Choking hazards are a big risk to kids under 3 years old because they instinctively place objects in their mouth but their reflexes are underdeveloped. Avoid toys with detachable parts smaller than 4cm or where sections can be bitten off as small parts such as soft foams and inflatable materials. Why not take a moment to watch an internet video or two on how to assist a young child that is choking, just in case.
TIP 3: CHOOSE TOYS THAT CAN BE CLEANED
For toys that will be kept and used for months or even years, keep the toys hygienic by ensuring they can be washed - particularly stuffed toys – or disinfected with wipes. Because, you know ... dribble, snot, covid …
TIP 4: LOOK FOR “NON-TOXIC” ON PAINT AND PAINTED TOYS
For toys that are painted (such as wooden toys) or contain paints, look for ‘non-toxic’ on the packaging. This is because the paint may end up in the mouth of young kids, because that’s how littlies learn about their world. Non-toxic paint is made with safer chemicals. Toys made before 1978 are likely to contain lead in their paint, so avoid giving them to little kids.
TIP 5: CHECK THE BATTERY COMPARTMENTS ARE SCREWED SHUT
Make sure any battery compartments are secure, with lids or caps in place that are screwed shut with actual screws. Lithium ‘button’ batteries especially can cause serious internal injuries if swallowed, so we want them locked safely way.
TIP 6: AVOID TOYS WITH SMALL LOOSE MAGNETS
Make sure there are no accessible small magnets. These can also cause serious internal injuries if a young child swallows more than one. If you come across a toy with magnetic little balls that stick together, the toy may actually be illegal in Australia and should be disposed of.
TIP 7: CHECK THE QUALITY OF CHEAP/FREE TOYS FROM OVERSEAS
If the toy has come from overseas, inspect the toy for safety or read the packaging to confirm it has been made to an appropriate standard, such as ISO 8124. This particularly applies to toys given away as prizes at carnivals and events as they have sometimes been found to be non-compliant with retail codes.
How to play safely with toys
TIP 8: REVIEW THE PACKAGING
Read and follow any warning labels or safety information carefully. Ensure any safety equipment needed is provided, such as helmets with bicycles. Toys that need plugging into mains electricity requires adult assistance (because, who wants to explain to a kid what an RCD is prior to playing?!). As an adult you are best placed to read the packaging or instructions.
TIP 9: INSPECT NEW TOYS
Inspect new toys to check they are well designed and not damaged. They should have no sharp edges and broken parts, as these can cause injuries. Check for choking hazards, especially small parts that might break off and can easily be put into the mouth, nose or ears of little kids … or even big kids if they have that tendency!
TIP 10: INSPECT USED TOYS TOO
For used toys, periodically look for damage that might pose a hazard, such as brittle parts, cracking around a battery component, missing screws, brakes on rideable toys, or loose components. Damaged toys should be discarded and not donated. Bear in mind that toy standards have changed with time so old hand-me-down toys may not meet new standards.
TIP 11: SECURE THE STRINGS
Strings or small ropes longer than 30cm will need to be used properly then secured to avoid an entanglement hazard.
TIP 12: SUPERVISE THE USE OF NEW TOYS
Supervise children whilst playing, especially younger children with new toys. Ensure children are using the necessary safety equipment such as helmets. This is also a good opportunity for parents to join in and play too, or to share our wonderful wisdom with the next generation.
How to store toys safely
TIP 13: PUT TOYS AWAY BY AGE GROUP
Keep toys for older siblings away from younger children. Avoid mixing and storing toys meant for children of different age ranges together – it can be dangerous if younger children play with toys meant for much older children. Teach children to be responsible for their toys and pack them away after use.
TIP 14: KEEP TOY STORAGE LIGHT AND EASY
Avoid toy boxes with heavy lids or placing heavy toy containers at heights above kids shoulders, unless they are entirely out of reach and can only be accessed by capable adults.
TIP 15: WHERE TOYS GO TO DIE
Toys don’t live on forever. Where do unsafe toys go? Into the bin! If you’re feeling a little destructive or you like a challenge, feel free to render them unplayable first by dismantling them.
A list of unsafe, banned and recalled toys is managed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission at https://www.productsafety.gov.au/recalls
It isn’t realistic to think that we can prevent all injuries from happening, but following safety tips and using common sense may help to avoid a trip to a medical service with a crying child.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa is the founder of Incredible Kids Activities. Working previously in designing activities that positively impact families within visitor centres and children's hospitals, her goal is to help kids to grow their aspirations. As part of Incredible Kids Activities she now gets to accomplish that every day. Lisa resides in sunny Perth, Australia with her family.