Between government regulations, your pediatrician’s recommendations, and all those warnings you read or hear at this time of year, you’re probably pretty conscious of toy safety, and the toys you buy your kids are pretty safe. The same might not be true of all the wonderful people who give your children toys.
So how can you be sure about the safety of the toys your child received for Christmas? If you’re not sure, what can you do about it?
Check age recommendations
That favorite uncle who gave your seven year old a replica Samurai sword probably didn’t check to see if there was a recommended age. In fact, there probably wasn’t a recommended age, because this awesome toy is not intended for kids.
Products that are not sold for kids do not have to meet government regulations for toy safety.
This can be an issue for kids’ toys as well, though. Some shoppers won’t think to check for age recommendations, and some will be wildly off when they estimate your child’s age. If the packaging mentions an age, think about putting the present away or on display until your child reaches the appropriate age.
This is particularly important for “Not for children under 3” warnings. These warnings are not about how much your child will enjoy the toy. They’re about the danger of choking. Under-3s are very likely to put things in their mouths. Often, the small parts of a toy can be removed and set aside until your child is older. If not, the entire toy can be put away for the future.
Homemade toys can be precious. Take some time to check the toy for safety before you let your little ones play with them.
One of the most common issues is safe materials. Grandpa’s handmade blocks might be painted with leftover house paint he had stored in the garage — and those paints are very likely to be toxic.
Stuffed toys and dolls are usually made of safe materials, but they are likely to have small parts. Make sure they’re not stuffed with beans or plastic pellets which could be dangerous if the toy developed a hole and the beans came out. Are the eyes attached safely? Dolls and stuffed animals for under-3s should have embroidered eyes or specially-made safety snap-in eyes, not sewn-on buttons. This is true for other small parts as well.
Be aware of chemicals, too. Homemade slime and play clay may include borax or essential oils, and could be dangerous if your child takes a bite or two.
If someone made the toy by hand, you can probably take care of the safety issues by hand, too. Replace bean stuffing with fiberfill and button eyes with embroidered ones, or just quietly replace the whole thing (borax-laden slime, for example) with a new, safer make.
Special hand made toys can also make very special decorative accents on a high shelf until your child is older.
All toys sold for children to play with nowadays must be safety tested by government-approved independent laboratories. That was not true a generation ago. That special heirloom toy might have sharp metal edges, toxic materials, or heating elements strong enough to cause serious burns.
These toys can be put up high like the others we’ve discussed, or you can play with your kids, sharing your memories of the toys and providing very close supervision.
Fixing the toy, setting it aside, or supervising its use closely will cover most less-than-safe toys your child receives. You know your friends and family well enough to decide whether returning the toy and exchanging it for something more appropriate will cause hurt feelings, but that can also be a good solution for store-bought toys.