Safety Guidelines for Children’s Toys & Gifts

Child playing with toys on Christmas day

Selecting the perfect toy for each child on your holiday gift list is a daunting task. You not only want to choose something special that sparks joy and delight, but you also want to select toys and gift items that are safe and appropriate.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), of the 226,100 estimated injuries directly contributed to toys in 2018, 73% of injuries were sustained by kids under 15 years old; 70% were sustained by children 12 years or younger; and 37% of toy-related injuries occurred to children under age 5.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) found that between 2009-2011, about 1,700 children between 8 and 12 years old were admitted to the emergency room after ingesting magnets, proving that toy and gift safety mindfulness is key when buying holiday gifts for kids of any age.

December is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month. Your Capital Women’s Care team would like to share important information on how to choose age-appropriate, safe toys and gifts plus offer specific safety guidelines to help you choose appropriate and safe gifts when shopping for all the kids on your gift-giving list this holiday season.

Gift-Buying Tips: Babies through Preschoolers

When choosing gifts for toddlers and babies, it’s especially important to keep safety a priority. Children age 3 and under are more likely to put toys in their mouths and not yet understand potential safety dangers. Younger children are also less coordinated, a factor which may cause toy-related injuries.

Some tips to keep in mind when holiday shopping for babies and toddlers:

  • Always follow all manufacturers' age recommendations. Some toys have small parts that can cause choking hazards, so heed all warnings listed on packaging.
  • Toys should be large enough — at least 1.75 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches in length — so they can’t be swallowed or become lodged in the windpipe, causing breathing or choking hazards. Avoid marbles, coins and smaller balls.
  • When checking a toy for safety, make sure it's unbreakable and strong enough to withstand chewing.
  • Avoid toys with the following characteristics for all babies and toddlers:
    • 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
    • and 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 always check manufacturer recommendations. Riding toys (like rocking horses and wagons) should have safety harnesses or straps and be stable and secure to prevent tipping.
  • Don’t give infants or toddlers painted toys made before 1978, as the paint may contain lead.
  • Never give babies or toddlers vending machine toys, as they often contain small parts.
  • Toys constructed with hard materials have sharp edges, points or spikes and aren’t as safe as toys with rounded edges, or toys made from foam, plush or fabric.

Gift-Buying Tips: School-Aged Kids

Here are some general guidelines when holiday shopping for school-aged kids:

  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be machine washable.
  • Painted toys should be decorated with lead-free paint.
  • Art materials should say non-toxic. Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means they’ve been tested by the American Society for Testing and Materials for toxicity.
  • Steer clear of older toys, even hand-me-downs from friends and family members, as they might not meet current safety standards.
  • Make sure a toy isn't too loud for your child. The noise of some electronic toys can be as loud as a car horn — even louder if a child holds it directly to the ears — and can damage hearing.
  • For all children under age 8, avoid toys with sharp edges and points.
  • Do not purchase electric toys with heating elements for children under age 8.
  • Bicycles, scooters, skateboards, and inline skates should never be used without helmets that meet current safety standards and other recommended safety gear. Look for CPSC or Snell certification on equipment labels.
  • Nets should be well made and firmly attached to all basketball hoop rims so they don't become strangulation hazards.
  • Toy darts or arrows should have soft tips or suction cups at the end, not hard points.
  • Toy guns should be brightly colored so they can’t be mistaken for real weapons and kids should be taught to never point darts, arrows or guns at anyone.
  • BB guns or pellet rifles shouldn’t be given to kids under age 16.
  • School-age kids are often tempted by non-toys, such as fireworks, matches, tools and knives. Keep these items off all kid gift lists.
  • Electric toys should be labeled UL, meaning they meet safety standards set forth by Underwriters Laboratories.

Safety Guidelines for Kids of All Ages

No matter what age child you are buying gifts and toys, there are specific safety guidelines to consider:

  • Be a label reader. Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide. Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards to younger children. Check instructions for clarity. They should be clear to you, and when appropriate, to the child.
  • Look for toys that are well made. Examine toys and gifts to make sure they are made well and won’t break easily. A broken toy can expose screws, splinters or jagged edges. Broken toys may also create small pieces that can present a choking hazard. Listen to toys that make noise to be sure the sound will not frighten the child. Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly secured eyes, noses and other potential small parts.
  • Age recommendations for toys aren’t always the same for every manufacturer. While specific factors of recommendations may vary, they do provide a solid guideline for the ages of children who use the toys safely.
  • Look for American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) approved toys. Toys purchased in a big box store – and even in most independent toy stores – should generally meet the toy safety standard. If you shop on-line you may have to be extra diligent to ensure toys and gifts meet ASTM standards.
  • Look for non-toxic art materials and paint decorations. Look for art materials, including crayons and paint sets, labeled with the designation “ASTM D-4236.” This means the product has been toxicologist reviewed. For toys with paint, read the label to make sure it states non-toxic and lead-free paint. Art supplies like crayons, markers and paint should be labeled as “non-toxic.”
  • Search for stuffed toys that are well made. Make certain all parts are tight and seams and edges are secure. It should also be machine washable. Remove loose ribbons or strings to avoid strangulation. Avoid toys with small bean-like pellets or stuffing that can cause choking or suffocation if swallowed.
  • Batteries should be difficult to access. Battery-operated toys should have battery cases that secure with screws so kids can’t pry them open. Batteries and battery fluid pose serious risks, including choking, internal bleeding and chemical burns.
  • Consider the child's temperament, habits and behavior when buying a toy. Even a child who appears advanced compared with other kids the same age shouldn't use toys meant for older kids. The age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity.

Other Safety Considerations

Be mindful of these additional toy and gift safety tips for kids:

  • Carnival and fair stuffed animals and other toys are not required to meet safety standards. Check carnival toys carefully for loose parts and sharp edges before giving them to your child.
  • Never give balloons or latex or vinyl gloves to kids younger than 8 years old. 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 become inhaled.
  • Check with the child’s parent If you wish to purchase a toy with wheels for a child of any age, such as bicycles, skateboards, scooters and tricycles. If they give you the green light to make the gift purchase, be sure to include appropriately sized safety gear, including helmet, knee, shin, wrist and/or elbow pads, etc.  Check items for safety approval notifications from Snell or CPSC.
  • Learn how toys and gifts work before buying them, or before giving them to a child. Show children how to safely play with toys and supervise children while playing.

Toy Safety within the Home

It’s important to monitor your child’s toys once the holidays are over:

  • Teach kids to take care of their things and put toys away, especially if they have younger siblings. Keep older siblings' toys out of the reach of infants. Have older siblings keep potentially harmful toys in a plastic storage container with lid to avoid dangers to inquisitive, curious younger siblings.
  • Check toys regularly to make sure that they aren't broken or unusable (for example, look for rust or sharp edges on bikes and outdoor toys and frayed wires on electronics gear.)
  • Throw away broken toys or repair them right away.
  • Store outdoor toys when not in use to prevent exposure to damaging rain or snow.
  • Read manufacturer directions to find out the best way to clean your child's toys and keep them in good working order.

When it’s time to open and enjoy new gifts and toys, be certain to discard toy wrappings and wrapping paper immediately to minimize suffocation or choking risks. If a toy appears questionable, check to see if it has been recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on their recall page before purchasing. You also can sign up to get news about the most up-to-date toy recalls.

Your Capital Women’s Care team wishes you and your family a happy, joyous, safe and healthy holiday season and new year. Our compassionate professionals are dedicated to serving your healthcare needs now and throughout your lifetime so you can enjoy optimal health and quality of life.


Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


Go to top