Your toddler loves toys and needs them for good development, such as hand-eye coordination.
But toys can potentially be dangerous, presenting choking hazards and the possibility of injury. Toddlers don’t know any better; they’ll stick just about anything in their mouths that will fit. Toys with sharp edges can present problems, too.
There are millions of toys on the market, with thousands of new ones coming out each year. That makes your choices a challenge in terms of safety.
In general, toys for toddlers should be well-made (with no sharp parts or splinters and do not pinch); painted with nontoxic, lead-free paint; shatter-proof; and easily cleaned. Art materials should be non-toxic, and crayons and paints should be labeled with ASTM D-4236, which means they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials, says Kids Health.
Of course, toddlers shouldn’t play with anything they could swallow. Marbles are a prime example of a fun toy that shouldn’t be on the safety list for toddlers. Toys should be at least 3 centimeters in diameter and 6 centimeters in length — so that they can't choke a child.
Owning a small-parts tester, or choke tube, can help you decide whether a toy is too small. If an object fits inside the tube, then it's too small for a young child.
Household objects toddlers love that shouldn’t be used as toys include metal car keys, remote controls, pet toys and dishes, storage containers of dried food if contents can be swallowed, the recycling bin, baby lotion tubes and bottles, and piles of dirty laundry, says Parents magazine.
The laundry would be okay as long as it’s not “scary dirty.” Other household objects toddlers love that are okay to play with include tissues, kitchenware including pots, pans, spoons, and spatulas, and opened boxes with the stuffing removed.
Make sure a toy isn’t too loud. That may seem like a strange consideration, but the noise of some rattles, squeak toys, and electronic or musical toys can be as loud as a car horn, says Kids Health. It could be even louder if a child holds it directly to his ear.
Battery-operated toys are safe, as long as battery cases are secured with screws so kids can’t get to them.
Also, make sure they don’t have small ends that can extend into the back of the mouth, strings longer than 7 inches (18 centimeters), and parts that could pinch fingers.
Where safety pertains to healthy and eco-friendly toys (avoiding toxic chemicals and materials), you should go for solid woods, repurpose, look for toys that will last (even if they cost a bit more), and read labels on where a toy comes from and what it’s made of.
Go for open-ended toys that can be used for many different types of play, avoid cheap jewelry and kids’ cosmetics, and avoid plastics as much as possible, says Healthy Child Healthy World.
If you choose plastic, and it’s hard to completely eliminate it, buy toys labeled with safer 1, 2, 4, or 5 plastic.
Use the database at HealthyToys.org to help you find safer toys. If you text keywords, you can get information immediately regarding any testing that’s been done to determine whether or not a particular toy is safe.
Remember, as much as you try to be vigilant around your kids, you really don’t have eyes in the back of your head. So play it safe and research toys for your toddler carefully before pulling them off the store shelf and bringing them home, even if they include the latest and greatest toy that’s so hard to find. Better safe than sorry.
May 26, 2016
Janet O’Dell, RN