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Toy Safety Checklist for the Holidays


Dr. Cheryl A. Utley

AITC Family Support Specialist

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Dear Parents,

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Is your home a safe place for your infant and/or toddler to play? The home is the second most common place of injuries among young children in the United States. Their stages of physical development make them a vulnerable group for toy-related injuries. Infants and/or toddlers may become injured while engaging in normal exploratory behaviors, lacking the judgment to avoid danger. For some infants and/or toddlers, they often experience more home injuries, in part, because they spend more time in the home environment, compared to older groups of children.

Choosing a toy that will brighten your baby's face is fun, but it's essential to keep safety, in mind, too. Whether infants and toddlers are holding a doll, playing with building blocks or even engaging in water play, here are toy safety tips to help them stay safer and have a blast.


Toys are a tool to help infants and toddlers develop, but it's parents who nurture that growth. Toys are an important part of every infant's and toddler's development. But each year, many infants and toddlers are treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. Choking is a risk for infants and toddlers, ages 3 or younger, because they tend to put objects in their mouths. Toy manufacturers must follow guidelines and label most new toys for specific age groups. But the most important thing a parent can do — especially when it comes to infants and toddlers — is to supervise play.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC closely monitors and regulates toys. Any toys made in — or imported into — the United States after 1995 must follow CPSC standards. Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for toys:

Be sure to consider your infant’s and/or toddler’s temperament, habits, and behavior whenever you buy a new toy. Even a toddler who seems advanced compared with other toddlers the same age shouldn't use toys meant for older toddlers. The age levels for toys are determined by safety factors, not intelligence or maturity.

Always read labels to make sure a toy is right for an infant’s and/or toddler’s age. Guidelines published by the CPSC and other groups can help you make good buying decisions.

Keeping Toys Safe at Home

After you've bought safe toys, it's also important to make sure infants and toddlers know how to use them. The best way to do this is by supervising infants and toddlers as they play. Infants and toddlers learn how to play safely while having fun. Parents should:


Check the CPSC website for the latest information about toy recalls or call their hotline to report a toy you think is unsafe. If you have any doubt about a toy's safety, do not allow your infant and/or toddler to play with it. If you've ever marveled at the look of concentration on the face of an infant or toddler who tries to fit a square block into a square hole or catch a ball in mid-air, you know that playtime isn't just about fun and games. It's serious business — and toys are the tools of the trade.


Play in the first year of life is all about exploration. Infants and toddlers use their five senses to learn about the new world around them: Does an object feel hard or soft? Sticky or rough? What does it do if I drop it? Or put it in my mouth? Most play consists of "tasting" or mouthing an object and shaking, banging, or dropping it.

When your infant or toddler develops new motor skills, play becomes more coordinated and complex. For example:

Toddlers are becoming aware of the function of objects. They like to stack blocks, babble into a toy phone, or drink from a "big kid" cup. The concept of pretend play starts now. Your little one might tuck a baby doll into bed at night or make "choo choo" noises while pushing a toy train.

Your toddler also will begin to differentiate colors and shapes. So choose toys that are bright, colorful, and fun for little hands to hold. By age 2, most toddlers can kick a ball, scribble with a crayon, and build towers four or more blocks tall. By age 3, they can do simple puzzles and pedal a tricycle.

Expect to see a lot of repetition, as that's how infants master new skills and learn they have some control over the world around them.


Whether they are bounced, rolled, caught, or thrown, balls encourage gross motor skills, hand–eye coordination, and dexterity. Shape-sorting toys. Pegboard puzzles, nesting cups or blocks, and buckets with holes for different shaped blocks challenge hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills. Mechanical toys. Pop-up toys and "busy" boxes with knobs, buttons, and levers encourage fine motor skills and problem solving, and teach cause-and-effect. Role-play toys. Play kitchens, doctor's kits, and golf sets help toddlers learn how the world works by imitating the actions of you and other adults. Dolls and stuffed animals encourage pretend play (for example. a tea party for teddy bears) and aid social and emotional development by teaching toddlers how to express emotions and take care of something they love. ![endif]--

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