If a toy's not safe, it doesn't matter how many bells and whistles it has. When shopping for your baby's playthings, follow the rules below. Once toys are at home, check them frequently for loose or broken parts.
What to look for:
- Always follow all manufacturers' age recommendations. Some toys have small parts that can cause choking, so heed all warnings on a toy's packaging.
- Toys should be large enough – at least 11/4" (3 centimeters) in diameter and 21/4" (6 centimeters) in length – so that they can't be swallowed or lodged in the windpipe. A small-parts tester, or choke tube, can determine if a toy is too small. These tubes are designed to be about the same diameter as a child's windpipe. If an object fits inside the tube, then it's too small for a young child. If you can't find one of these products, a toilet paper roll can be used for the same purpose.
- Avoid marbles, coins, balls, and games with balls that are 1.75 inches (4.4 centimeters) in diameter or less because they can become lodged in the throat above the windpipe and restrict breathing.
- Battery-operated toys should have battery cases that secure with screws so that kids cannot pry them open. Batteries and battery fluid pose serious risks, including choking, internal bleeding, and chemical burns.
- When checking a toy for safety, make sure it's unbreakable and strong enough to withstand chewing. Also, make sure it doesn't have:
- sharp ends or small parts like eyes, wheels, or buttons that can be pulled loose.
- small ends that can extend into the back of a baby's mouth.
- strings longer than 7 inches (18 centimeters).
- parts that could become pinch points for small fingers.
- Most riding toys can be used once a child is able to sit up well while unsupported – but check with the manufacturer's recommendation. Riding toys like rocking horses and wagons should come with safety harnesses or straps and be stable and secure enough to prevent tipping.
- Hand-me-down and homemade toys should be carefully evaluated. They may not have undergone testing for safety. Do not give your infant painted toys made before 1978; they may have paint that contains lead.
- Stuffed animals and other toys that are sold or given away at carnivals, fairs, and in vending machines are not required to meet safety standards. Check carnival toys carefully for loose parts and sharp edges before giving them to your infant.
Check to see if a toy has been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) by browsing their recall page, here. You also can join a mailing list to receive news about the most up-to-date toy recalls.
- Never give balloons or latex gloves to a child younger than age 8. A child who is blowing up or chewing on a balloon or gloves can choke by inhaling them. Inflated balloons pose a risk because they can pop without warning and be inhaled.
- Never give your infant vending machine toys, which often contain small parts.
- Keep older siblings' toys out of the reach of infants.
Reviewed by: Steve Dowshen, MD, and Norma Everett, MPA
Date reviewed: October 2011
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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