Safe Toys for the Holidays

Child with holiday gift

We all know kids will be playing with empty boxes on Christmas morning. But at some point, they'll get around to checking out the toys as well – and it's important to make sure they are age-appropriate and safe.

"You may think that a child is advanced for his age in comparison to peers and can handle toys meant for older kids, but the age levels for toys are determined by safety factors – not intelligence or maturity," said Penny Lentz, Safe Kids Coalition Coordinator. "Children who are extremely smart can still put things in their mouth and choke on small parts."

Here are Lentz's tips for safe holiday gift giving:

  • In general, toys for infants and toddlers should be too large to fit through a toilet paper roll. Smaller than that suggests a choking hazard.
  • Gifts such as tricycles, bicycles, scooters, skateboards and skates should come with a helmet, elbow and knee pads – sized appropriately for the child.
  • Toys made of fabric should be washable and say "flame resistant" or "flame retardant."
  • Art supplies should be labeled "nontoxic."
  • Toys such as darts and or arrows should have soft tips or suction cups at the ends.
  • Legos and Shopkins are a big hit with older children. But if they have young siblings, buy a storage case to go along with it as a way of encouraging the child to keep those small pieces away from little hands.
  • Toys for babies need particularly high safety standards. That means no sharp ends or small parts like eyes or wheels that the child could chew or pull off. Strings should be no longer than seven inches, so a child could not wrap it around their neck. Expect a toddler toy to be chewed on – it should be strong enough to be chewed without breaking.
  • Double check that battery-operated toys have screws on the battery case so the child cannot access the batteries. They can pose serious risks, including choking, internal bleeding and burns.
  • Likewise, high-powered magnet sets should be kept away from small children. Two or more swallowed magnets can be attracted to each other in the intestinal walls and cause twisting and pinching of the intestines.