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Your kids have given you their holiday "wish list" complete with the latest doll, video games and toys. But before you let the recent recall of toys tainted with lead paint scare you out of shopping for your children, take our lesson on safe toy shopping.

Dr. Jennifer Lai, a specialist in Pediatrics at Kelsey-Seybold, says parents should first assess a toy's risk when shopping for safe toys. "For example, if you have a toddler younger than age 3, you should avoid marbles or toys containing marbles because it could pose a choking risk," says Dr. Lai. "You should also avoid toys with a strap or a string which can fit around your child's small neck. It could cause strangulation."

Consider a Child's Age

Any ball or toy that contains a ball, smaller than 1.75 inches, can also pose a choking risk to small children. Uninflated latex balloons, or pieces of broken latex balloons, can cause suffocation if placed in a child's mouth.

For children between the ages of 3 to 12 years, Dr. Lai recommends that parents carefully consider toys such as bicycles and scooters. "When you purchase a bike for your child, be sure to purchase a helmet and be sure your child wears it when riding the bike," adds Dr. Lai.

Arts and crafts products and toy guns should also be carefully inspected by parents this holiday season. "The designation ASTM-D4236 on arts and crafts products indicates that the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist, or an expert in poisonous substances. Any known health hazards have been identified and are stated as such on the label. This designation does not mean that the product is non-toxic," says Dr. Lai. "Toy guns should be brightly colored so as not to be mistaken for the real thing."

Check Those Toys

After the holidays are over, parents should inspect a child's toys often to be sure the toys are still safe.

"Throw away the plastic wrapping from toys immediately, and throw away or repair any broken toy, which may be a danger to your child in its broken state," says Dr. Lai. "Teach your child how to pick up toys to prevent a fall, and store toys requiring adult supervision out of reach of children."

Certain Toys to Consider

Dr. Lai outlines the following toys parents should question this holiday season:

  • Electric Toys. These toys present many possible dangers if used improperly or without adequate adult supervision. Dangers include electric shock, burns, sharp edges and small parts which may break off and become choking hazards. Safety standards and regulations have reduced, but not eliminated these risks. If you choose to purchase these toys, pay particular attention to the recommended ages as indicated on the toy's packing. Even a child who is considered to be smart, bright or advanced for his or her age will lack the common sense to always know when they are playing with an electric toy in a way that may put them in harm's way.

  • Crib Toys. Any toy that hangs across a crib, secured on both crib rails, should be taken down for an infant who has begun to push up on his knees. An infant can become entangled in this type of toy and choke.

  • BB Guns. Although they are not real guns, BB guns are not a toy! They are responsible for an average of four deaths each year.

Toy Evaluation Checklist

Dr. Lai provides a few toy shopping safety guidelines you should follow to ensure that your child's playtime is worry-free, safe and fun. Here is a handy checklist you should follow while shopping for that perfect toy. Remember: if you check off any of these, then leave the toy on the shelf.

__ Does the toy have any sharp edges that can cut someone?

__ Is the toy made of cheap or thin plastic that can easily splinter or break into sharp pieces?

__ Is the toy poorly made, leaving ample opportunity for small pieces to be removed and swallowed or choked on?

__ Is it a throwing toy with sharp points or spikes?

__ Is it a flying toy, a missile or a dart with any sharp points?

__ Is the toy right for the intended child's age? (Reading the package can assist you in making this determination.)

To report dangerous toys and to sign up for automatic recall notifications, contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission toll free at 1-800-638-2772


1. US PIRG –  U.S Public Interest Research Groups is made up of independent, state- based, citizen- funded organizations that advocate for the public interest.
2. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
3. Watch World Against Toys Causing Harm –  Publishes "10 worst Toys" List.
4. Mattel Toys Safety Information – Addresses newly rigorous safety precautions taken by this manufacturer and provides up-to-date links to recall information.

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Jennifer Lai, MD

​I'm​ a strong advocate of promoting health and wellness to patients, especially in the pediatric population. I want to make a difference and have a strong impact on my patients’ lives.