tricycles, toy trucks and cars, wagons and balls are among children's
favorite playthings. But in one year, according to U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission estimates, there were 150,000 toy-related injuries
serious enough to require hospital emergency room treatment.
Falls are the most frequent kind of accident, but many serious injuries
result from children swallowing small parts or placing tiny toys in noses
or ears, from exploding gas-powered toys, from flammable products, and
from sharp edges.
Each year, some 5,000 new toys enter the market-place. The holiday season
finds over 150,000 different kinds of toys for sale in approximately one
million stores. Despite the efforts of manufacturers, retailers, safety
inspectors, and others, it is impossible to examine every toy. But it is
possible for parents and other relatives to check every new toy they buy
and every old toy around the house for possible hazards.
The following suggestions can help you keep playtime a safe, fun time.
SELECT TOYS WITH CARE
- Choose carefully. Look for good design
and quality construction in the toys you buy.
- Watch out for toys that have sharp
edges, small parts, or sharp points. Avoid toys that produce extremely
loud noises that can damage hearing and propelled objects that can
- Buy toys that suit the child's age,
interest, and abilities. Avoid toys that are too complex for young
children. Many toys have a suggested age range to help you choose toys
that are appealing as well as safe.
- Be a label reader. Look for safety
information such as "Not recommended for children under 3 years
of age," or "non-toxic" on toys likely to end up in
little mouths, or "washable/hygenic materials" on stuffed
toys and dolls.
- Check with parents before you buy a
child a toy that requires close supervision - electrically operated
toys, shooting toys and games, chemistry sets, and the like. Remember,
too, that younger children may have access to toys intended for older
children once the toy has been brought into the home.
- Look for the UL (Underwriters
Laboratories) seal on electrical toys. It indicates the electrical
parts have been tested for safety.
TEACH PROPER USE OF TOYS
- Check the instructions and explain to
the child how to use the toy.
- Always try to supervise children while
they play. Learn to spot "an accident about to happen."
- Check toys periodically for broken parts
and potential hazards. A dangerous toy should be repaired immediately
or thrown away. Sharp or splintered edges on wooden toys should be
sanded smooth. Use only non-toxic paint on toys or toy boxes. Check
outdoor toys for rust and weak or sharp parts that could become
- Teach children to put their toys away so
the toys do not get broken and so that no one trips and falls on them.
- Toy boxes, too, should be checked for
safety. A toy chest should have a lightweight lid that can be opened
easily from within. For extra safety, be sure there are ventilation
holes. Watch for sharp edges that could cut and hinges that could
pinch. Attach rubber bumpers to the front corners of a toy chest so
little fingers won't be caught by a slammed lid.
- Toy shelves are another storage
possibility. Open shelves allow the child to see favorite toys and
return them to the shelf after play. Be sure the shelf is sturdy and
won't tip over if the child climbs on it.
SEVEN TOY DANGERS
- Sharp edges: Toys made of brittle
plastic or glass can break easily, exposing sharp points and edges.
Wooden, metal, and plastic toys sometimes have sharp edges due to poor
- Small parts: Tiny toys and toys with
small, removable parts can be swallowed or become lodged in a child's
windpipe, ears, or nose. The squeakers in some squeeze toys can be
removed and possibly swallowed. The seams of poorly constructed
stuffed dolls or animals can break open and release small pellets that
also can be swallowed or inhaled.
- Loud noises: Toy caps and some
noise-making guns and other toys can reach noise levels that can
damage hearing. The law requires the following label on boxes of caps
producing noise above a certain level: "WARNING - Do not fire
closer than 1 foot to the ear. Do not use indoors."
- Sharp points: Broken toys can expose
dangerous prongs and knife-sharp points. Pins and staples on dolls'
clothes, hair, and accessories can easily puncture an unsuspecting
child. Even a teddy bear or stuffed toy can be assembled with wires
that can cut or stab.
- Propelled objects: Projectiles - guided
missiles and other flying toys - can be turned into weapons and can
injure eyes in particular. Children should never be permitted to play
with adult lawn darts or other hobby or sporting equipment with sharp
points. Arrows or darts used by children should have soft cork tips,
rubber suction cups or other protective tips to prevent injury.
- Electric toys: Electric toys that are
improperly constructed, wired, or misused can shock or burn. Electric
toys must meet mandatory requirements for maximum surface
temperatures, electrical construction, and prominent warning labels.
Electric toys with heating elements are recommended only for children
over age 8. Children should be taught to use electric toys cautiously
and under adult supervision.
- Wrong toy for the wrong age: Toys that
may be safe for older children can be extremely dangerous in the hands
of little ones.
EXTRA CARE FOR TODDLERS' TOYS
Choose toys for very young children with
extra care. Playthings that are safe for older children can be hazardous
to little ones. Keep in mind that toddlers trip and fall easily, and that,
with infants, "everything goes into the mouth."
When choosing a toy for a toddler or infant, make sure it:
- Is too large to be swallowed.
- Does not have detachable pieces that can
lodge in the windpipe, ears, or nostrils.
- Will not break easily, leaving jagged
- Has no sharp edges or points.
- Has not been put together with easily
exposed pins, wires, staples, or nails.
- Is labeled "non-toxic."
- Can't pinch fingers or catch hair.
TOY SAFETY LAWS
Although any toy can be dangerous if
misused, some toys that enter the marketplace are either unsuitable for
children, or designed or constructed in a way that poses hazards to a
child. Toys and other products intended for use by children that present
electrical, mechanical, or heat hazards can be banned from sale. Since
1970, more than 1,500 hazardous toys and other items have been removed
from sale, including:
- toy rattles containing rigid wires,
sharp points, or small, loose objects that could become exposed and
cause cuts or other injuries.
- any toy with noisemaking parts that
could be removed by a child and swallowed or inhaled.
- any doll, stuffed animal, or similar toy
having parts that could become exposed and cause cuts.
- lawn darts and other sharp, pointed
items intended for outdoor use that could cause puncture wounds,
unless they have included appropriate cautions, adequate directions,
and warnings for safe use and are not sold by toy stores or stores
dealing primarily in toys and other children's articles.
- toy guns or caps that cause noise above
a certain level.
- "baby bouncers" and similar
articles that support very young children while sitting, walking, or
bouncing, which could cause injury to the child such as pinching,
cutting, or bruising.
- toys known as "cracker balls"
that could break off and cause injury.
A 1973 regulation specifies maximum
temperatures and requires reliable electrical construction for
electrically operated toys. Electrical toys must have warning labels
indicating they are not recommended for children under a certain age. In
the case of toys that contain a heating element, the toy may not be
recommended for children under age 8.
Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers have legal responsibility for
making sure they do not sell dangerous toys. Safety inspectors check
factories, warehouses, and retail stores to insure compliance with the
law. Imported toys, too, are checked for safety hazards.
However, safety standards and regulations cannot cover every situation,
and among the thousands of toys entering the marketplace each year, some
unsafe toys are likely to reach the consumer. Careful toy selection and
proper supervision of children is still - and always will be - the best
way to protect children from toy-related injuries.
GUIDE TO SELECTING AGE APPROPRIATE TOYS
O - 18 Months
pounding and stacking toys
floating tub toys
strings of big beads
small take-apart toys
nested boxes or cups
stacking toys and rings
books with rhymes, pictures, jingles
musical and chime toys
18 months - 3 years
ride-on toys to straddle
blocks of different sizes and shapes
wading pool and sandbox
child-size play furniture
play appliances, utensils
simple dress-up clothes
take-apart toys with large parts
clay and modeling dough
blackboard and chalk
simple musical instruments
3 - 6 years
additional dress-up outfits
bathing and feeding dolls
puppets and theaters
toy phone and toy clock
farm, village, and other play sets
small trucks, cars, planes, boats
simple construction sets
other wheeled toys
backyard gymsets, jungle gyms
Learners will be able to:
- Identify and give examples of seven toy
- Identify at least five toys banned under
the Federal Hazardous Substances Act;
- Identify at least five suggestions for
1. When you first pick up a toy, what
should you look for to ensure that the toy is safe? What would you look
for in a bicycle, stuffed animal, dolls, squeeze toys, metal truck, or
2. Give an example of an unsafe toy. What makes this item hazardous for a
3. Why are there so many toy-related injuries during childhood? Who is
responsible for the problem - manufacturers, parents, or children?
4. What kind of educational program is needed to help parents and children
learn more about toy safety? What kinds of suggestions would you offer to
parents to protect their children?
CHECKLIST FOR EVALUATING TOYS
Does the toy have sharp, cutting edges?
Is the toy constructed so small parts could be removed and swallowed?
Will it make loud noises that can damage hearing?
Does the toy have hidden sharp points or prongs that might be exposed?
Is it a throwing toy with a sharp point?
Is it an improperly constructed electric toy?
Is it inappropriate for the child's age?
Information on toy safety was adapted from
material provided by the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Listing of recommended toys was adapted from "The World of Children's
Play and Toys," C-600.
Reprinted with permission from the
National Network for Child Care -
NNCC. Smith, C. A. (1987). *Toy safety*. [Extension Publication
MF-643] Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University Cooperative Extension