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Shopping for safe toys

Shopping for Safe Toys

November 25, 2019

Dr. Jennifer Lai, a board-certified pediatrician 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. You should also avoid toys with a strap or a string that 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. "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

"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 when it comes to safety:

  • Electric toys present many possible dangers if used improperly or without adequate adult supervision. Dangers include electric shock, burns, sharp edges, and small parts that 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 packaging. Even a child who is smart, bright, or advanced for their age will lack the common sense to always know when they’re playing with an electric toy in a way that may put them in harm's way.
  • 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 may not be real guns, but they’re also not toys! They’re 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’s 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 or visit

Portrait of Jennifer Lai, MD, Pediatrics specialist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

About the Author

Dr. Jennifer Lai is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold. She accepts appointments for kids of all ages. Her clinical interests include General Pediatrics, newborns, autism, and obesity.

Dr. Adesina from Kelsey-Seybold Clinic

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