December is Safe Toy & Gifts Month

In November, we posted a blog about “Toy Shopping with Safety in Mind,” which gave tips on how to choose toys for children that are safe and age-appropriate. In honor of Safe Toy & Gifts Month, we have more safety advice to share, courtesy of and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Selecting Safe Toys

  • Look for toys that have a solid design and a sturdy construction—toys that won’t break, crush, or be pulled apart easily.
  • Check to see if the instructions are clear.
  • Read the labels to see if there are any fire hazards.
  • Look for labels that assure you the toys have passed a safety inspection—ASTM means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
  • Avoid unsafe toys, including:
    • Toys with small parts and sharp edges and points.
    • Guns and other toys that shoot flying objects and make loud noises.
    • Crayons and markers that are not labeled nontoxic.
    • Toys that could shatter into fragments if broken.
    • Toys with ropes and cords.
    • Electric toys with heating elements.

Dangers of Electric Toys

Electric toys and other electrically operated products intended for use by children can be extremely hazardous if improperly used, used without supervision, or not properly designed and/or constructed. The possible dangers are many: electric shock, burns, especially if the product has a heating element; and a wide variety of mechanical hazards common to toys in general, such as sharp edges and points and dangerous moving parts.

Although safety standards and regulations have made electric toys much safer than they used to be, adults still need to be select when purchasing toys, supervising their use, and monitoring them for signs of damage or wear.

  • Don’t buy an electrical toy for a child too young to use it safely. Check the age recommendation, and remember that the age listed is the minimum age. Make sure the child you are buying for is mature enough for the toy, regardless of chronological age.
  • Read the toy’s instructions carefully, then read them again with the child who will be using the toy.
  • Supervise the child at play with the toy, especially the first few times, to make sure the child follows all the safety guidelines.
  • Teach children to always disconnect an electric toy after use by grasping the plug, not by pulling on the cord.

Choosing Toys for Children with Special Needs

  • Choose toys that may appeal to different senses—sound, movement, texture.
  • Consider interactive toys—toys that allow the child to play with others.
  • Think about what size the toy is and what position a child would need to be in to play with it.
  • Determine if the toy could be adapted to different kinds of play in different situations— could it be played with alone or in interaction with other children? Could the toy be adjusted for a child with special needs? Could it be used with other toys?
  • AblePlay, a service of the National Lekotek Center, offers a database for parents, friends, and relatives to search for toys for children with special needs. You can find AblePlay here:

Toy Safety Coloring Book

The CPSC has created a coloring book called “Think Toy Safety.”  You can download the file to print out at home here:  CPSC coloring book

Happy (and Safe) Holidays, everyone!

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