Despite very strict toy safety regulations in the United States and the United Kingdom, some unsafe toys still do slip through the net. It is essential that all consumers are familiar with regulations and remain vigilant when buying toys for kids.
For the most part, toy safety regulations have been very successful. Very few household accidents involve toys, and when accidents do involve toys it is very rare that the accident is caused by a defect in the toy itself. Accidents involving toys usually involve people tripping over them or using them inappropriately.
In addition, where defective or dangerous toys have made it onto the market they have been recalled quickly and publicly. However, this is no reason for parents to leave their guard down when buying toys.
First of all you need to check that the toy you are buying bears the appropriate safety labels. In the United States the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) mark and in Europe the CE marking signifies that the toy meets the minimum required safety standards.
After these markings, probably the next most important labels for toy shoppers to watch out for are age labels. These are an essential part of toy safety and you should always follow their guidance.
The vast majority of toys bear age labels whether they are legally required or not. All toys that are not suitable for children under 36 months must bear a prominent label stating so.
However, in general toys give guidance as to what age group they are intended for. These serve as a guide as to what age group will benefit from the toy the most, in terms of fun and development. Here is a brief guide of what kinds of toys suit different age groups:
Under three years - The biggest threat that toys pose to children of this age is choking hazard. Babies and toddlers tend to put almost everything they lay their hands on in their mouths. Because of this, very small toys or toys with small parts are particularly unsuitable. In addition, keep marbles and small balls out of their reach; be careful with inflatable toys and balloons; and avoid toys with sharp or pointy edges.
Three to five years - Children really come into their own at this age and are able for much more sophisticated toys. However, you should remain vigilant as certain toys could pose a risk to them. Avoid toys with thin plastic that might break and cause injury.
Ages six to twelve - By this age children will be able to safely play with almost any toy you give them. However, always read the instruction leaflets for maintenance guides and hazard warnings. For example, if you buy a skateboard or a bike for your child, you should also buy protective equipment. If you buy a trampoline, you will need to carry out maintenance on it regularly.
If you have children of different ages things can become a little complicated. When you have lots of different toys that are suitable for different ages you have to be super-vigilant. For a start, you should teach older children to keep their toys out of the reach of younger children.
Also, do not simply put all of the toys into one box. Have a separate toy box for each child and make sure they do not swap toys. Age labels on toys will help you to keep organized in this way.
In general, it is a good idea to be neat and tidy with toys. Having toys laying around the house is a common cause of accidents. Also, remember that children are intended to play with toys. All maintenance such as the changing of batteries should be carried out by an adult.
While toy safety labels offer a very important safeguard against dangerous toys reaching our children, it is also very important to use your own common sense. Before you buy a toy examine it yourself to make sure that it is sturdy and well constructed. Also check to see if it has any sharp edges or pointy corners. Be extra careful when buying toys for very young children. For example, if you are buying a cuddly toy make sure that all the stitching is secure and that small items such as eyes or the nose are not loose.
If your child has an accident with a toy or you suspect that a toy is dangerous, you should take immediate action. The first step is to take the toy out of the reach of all children. You should then report the toy to the relevant authorities. You will need to keep the toy for examination and you should also try to provide details of when and where you bought the toy.
The regulations go along way towards ensuring the toys in or shops are safe. However, consumer vigilance is also a vital part of the battle against dangerous toys.