December:  Safe Toys and Gifts Month


With the holiday season approaching, your thoughts may be turning to shopping for toys and gifts. You’ll want to get the children in your life their favorite toys, and there are thousands of toys to choose from in stores and online. Before you make those purchases remember to consider the safety and age-range of the toys. In 2007 alone, toy makers recalled over 19 million toys worldwide because of safety concerns such as lead paint and small magnets. In 2005, there were over 200,000 toy-related injuries.

To prevent injuries, choose toys that are safe for the age of the child.Look for labels to help you judge which toys might not be safe,especially for infants and children under age three. For children of all ages, consider if the toys are suited to their skills and abilities. Even within the child’s age range, toys suitable for one child might not be suitable for another child. It’s good to keep in mind that younger children, if they’re not being watched closely, may play with toys purchased for older children. Below are some guidelines for choosing safe toys for all ages:


  •       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.


Along with knowing what kinds of toys to choose, it’s important to know what kinds of toys to avoid in order to prevent possible injuries. For example, do not choose:

  •          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.

Toys imported from other countries and older toys may have high levels of lead in the paint or in the plastic. Because of normal hand-to-mouth activity, children can expose themselves to lead paint or dust. Even small amounts of lead can harmful to your child. It’s hard to know exactly what toys might be dangerous, but here are a few tips to help you protect your kids from lead exposure from toys:

  •         Educate yourself about lead exposure from toys.
  •         Have your children wash their hands frequently.
  •         Before shopping, look to see what kinds of toys have been recalled.
  •         Be aware that old toys may contain lead in the paint.


Call your health care provider if you suspect that your child has been exposed to lead. Most children have no symptoms, but some children may be irritable, show aggressive behavior, have little appetite or energy, or complain of headaches. Children exposed to a high dose of lead may have abdominal pain and cramps.


·        For information on toys and childhood lead exposure, visit www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/faq/toys.htm.

·        More information about lead poisoning and its symptoms can be found at www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002473.htm




Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, National Network for Child Care, Nemours Foundation, Prevent Blindness America, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.