Each year, scores of kids are treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. With so many toys on the market and new ones arriving every day, it's important to make sure the toys your child plays with are safe.
Manufacturers follow certain guidelines and label most new toys for specific age groups. But perhaps the most important thing a parent can do — especially when it comes to younger school-age children — is to supervise play.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors and regulates toys. Any toys made in, or imported into, the United States after 1995 must comply with CPSC standards.
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for toys:
Steer clear of older toys, even hand-me-downs from friends and family. Those toys might have sentimental value and are certainly cost-effective, but they may not meet current safety standards and may be so worn from play that they can break and become hazardous.
And 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 contribute to hearing damage.
Always read labels to make sure a toy is appropriate for a child's age. Guidelines published by the CPSC and other groups can help you make those buying decisions. Still, use your own best judgment — and consider your child's temperament, habits, and behavior whenever you buy a new toy.
You may think that a child who's advanced in comparison to peers can handle toys meant for older kids. But the age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when selecting toys for school-age children:
After you've bought safe toys, it's also important to make sure kids know how to use them. Parents should:
Check the CPSC website for the latest information about toy recalls or call their hotline at (800) 638-CPSC to report a toy you think is unsafe.
If you have any doubt about a toy's safety, err on the side of caution and do not allow your child to play with it.