Making Safety A Priority In Your Christmas Toy Shopping Endeavors

By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation

As soon as we have our fill of turkey on Thanksgiving Day, many of us make our plans for Black Friday and the 26 additional shopping days to follow. On the top of many people’s lists is the must-have, latest sensations in toys! Something that many fail to keep in mind while shopping is safety. The search for the perfect gift to place under the tree can quickly be tarnished by safety recalls and hidden hazards! Of all recalled children’s items in recent years, toys have been the largest category.

Most toys today do come with safety warnings on the packaging, including where the product is made, as well as labeling as to age-appropriateness of the toy. However, in the hustle & bustle of checking off our list and getting the items before they are out of stock, many do not take the time to research these essential key warnings. In addition to dangers from choking hazards due to small pieces or faulty construction, there is the worry of lead paint and other deadly chemicals being used. Most times it is not who makes the toys that matters, but how they are manufactured. As we have seen in the past, many big name brands can still have issues with safety recalls.

Before you start making your toy list and checking it twice, be sure to follow this checklist to avoid problems down the road:

  1. Make sure the toy is age-appropriate by reading the label.
  2. Check for small, loose parts that could be swallowed by young children.
  3. Infants & toddlers love to chew on toys, so make sure no parts on the toy could easily be bitten off and swallowed.
  4. For younger children, avoid items with string, straps or ribbons longer than seven inches to evade strangulation. Also, any toys with throwing or shooting projectiles should be avoided for children under the age of eight to prevent eye-related injuries.
  5. Fabric toys should be labeled as flame retardant or flame resistant. Electrical toys with batteries or electric plugs pose a burn hazard so they should be avoided for kids under eight.
  6. Avoid puzzles, figures, and dolls with powerful magnets, as they can be fatal if swallowed by children.
  7. Look carefully for points, edges, and breakable parts that could be sharp and injury a child.
  8. If you purchase items for a child to ride on (scooter, bicycle, roller skates, etc…), make sure it is sturdy & stable and follow-up with good safety equipment like knee pads, elbow pads, & helmets.
  9. Make sure the toys have a non-toxic, durable finish and be sure they contain no unhealthy chemicals (Phthalates, lead, etc…).
  10. Before you wrap it up, check to make sure the toy has not already been recalled. With the hottest toys of today becoming the most terrifying of tomorrow, concerned parents can keep up-to-date with all the recall notifications by signing up with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) at The website is also a great resource to use in identifying recalls of current toys your child might have. If your child has outgrown a toy and you want to donate to a thrift shop or daycare, help save the life of another child by looking into the product’s safety before it leaves your house.

Additionally, sometimes it is not necessarily the toy, but the packaging that can pose a danger to your child. Hard plastic packaging can present a hazard when opening and potentially cut a child. It is always best to leave the opening of a package and its assembly to a responsible adult. Also, it is always recommended to supervise children carefully when they play with their toys. Sometimes toys that seem safe can be dangerous if used incorrectly. If you have both older and younger children in the house, it is important to separate toys and keep potentially dangerous toys out of the reach of younger children.

Now some of this may seem like you are being overly-protective in selecting the perfect toy for your child, but you can never be too careful! According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), toy-related injuries sent almost 73,000 children under the age of five to emergency rooms in 2005. Twenty children also died from toy-related injuries that same year. More than 170 million units of jewelry — most made in China and marketed to children in this country — have been recalled since 2004, according to Scott Wolfson of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Hopefully by following these simple tips and researching children’s toys before you make your final purchase, you will be embarking on a safe, healthy, & happy holiday season!