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Safe Toy Buying Guide

Published on Dec. 02, 2022

Seeing a child’s face light up when you give them a toy they love can warm even the grouchiest Scrooge's heart. But while toys are a wonderful part of the holiday season, it’s important to be picky about which ones you buy, because not all toys are safe toys for all ages. 

If you’re on the hunt for some fun gifts this holiday season, review the tips below for buying safe toys by age group.

Remember: Adult supervision is first and foremost in all injury prevention – always be with your child when they’re opening gifts, be sure you’re the one inserting batteries and other small parts, and make sure your child plays with the toy in the intended way.


Crawlers, Cruisers and Toddlers

Infants and children under 3 years old are notorious for exploring the world with their mouths, so it’s safe to assume that anything that makes it into their hands will, at some point, end up in their mouths. Consider this when choosing a toy for a young child, and choose toys that come in larger, single sizes instead of ones that have many smaller parts. Simply put, smaller kids need bigger toys.

A handy tool you can use for this is a simple toilet paper roll or paper towel roll – if a toy or toy part can go through the opening in a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll, it can be a choking hazard for a young child.

Look for toys that have smooth, rounded corners instead of sharp ones; smoother corners pose a much lower risk of a child hurting themselves if they fall on or – more likely – chew on a toy. 

Beware of Button Batteries

Two very common (and very dangerous to little ones) elements many toys have are button batteries and small magnets. Curious eyes and hands may be drawn to these small, shiny objects. If swallowed, they can become stuck in a child’s throat or intestinal track and cause serious injury. Swallowed batteries can cause severe chemical burns quickly, so if you suspect your child has swallowed a battery, seek immediate help from the nearest emergency department. Always store extra batteries high out of reach of children and secure the toy’s battery compartment with a piece of tape.


School-aged Kids, Tweens and Teens

Sporting goods and other activities are very popular choices for older kids and teens. If you’re planning on getting your tween or teen a new bike, skates, scooter, or other riding toy, it’s a good idea to throw a properly fitting helmet and other protective gear (like knee and elbow pads for the skater in the family) in your shopping cart, too. Consider if the item you’re buying is age- and ability-appropriate for your child – your child’s pediatrician can help with this, too, so this is a great opportunity to see them for a sports physical or well visit.

For the tech-obsessed in the family, new ear buds or headphones are frequent wish list items. And while losing ourselves in some good music or an entertaining podcast can be fun, it’s important to be mindful of how long – and how loud – we’re plugged in. Ear buds and headphones can pose long-term hearing problems when played at high volumes, especially when done over long periods of time.

Did you know? Earbuds today can reach as high as 120 decibels – that’s just about the sound level of a jet engine! To prevent long-term hearing damage, limit devices to 60% maximum volume for total of 60 minutes/day.


Celebrate the Season – Safely!

We hope you enjoy all the wonder the holiday season has to offer, including fun toys for the kids! If you’re wondering whether a toy is developmentally or age appropriate, look for a suggested age range and consumer warning label on the front of the package – this label will tell you about potential risks a particular toy or toy components may pose to children.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very happy, healthy and safe holiday season!


About the Author

Kristina Pasma, BSN, RN, CPSI, is a trauma nurse liaison at Valley Children's Healthcare. She is also the Safe Kids Central California Coalition Coordinator and is passionate about educating children and their families about injury prevention at home and in the community.