Selecting Safe Toys for Young Children

By Paul Sirbaugh, M.D.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that 140,700 children visited hospital emergency rooms last year for toy-related injuries; 13 children died from their injuries. To prevent injury or worse, parents considering the purchase of any toy should keep in mind both their child’s age and his or her maturity level.

The following guidelines will help you make the right toy choices for your children:

A toy is not the right choice if it is smaller than your child’s fist. Even if the toy is larger, if it has a moveable or loose part that is smaller than your child’s fist, that child should not play with it. The toy or part is probably a choking hazard.

Toys that are suitable for children over the age of 3 are not suitable for infants and toddlers. Many of these toys have small parts, which can pose choking hazards to little ones. Additionally, toys with cords and strings longer than 12 inches are strangulation hazards for children under age 3.

For children younger than age 7, add a year to the age printed on the packaging to be on the safe side. In some cases, even an additional year may not be enough of a precaution. Examine the product carefully, considering your child’s age, maturity level and the potential hazards the toy may have.

If your child is developmentally delayed, realize that he or she may not be ready for a particular toy. Remember, too, that siblings’ toys should not always be accessible to the child who is developmentally delayed and at risk.

Toys with sharp edges or toys that run on electricity shouldn’t be given to children under age 8.

When purchasing toys for an older child, think about the younger children in the house.

Could this toy pose a hazard for the 1-year-old who is still crawling? While older children should not be denied toys for their age groups, they need to be reminded to keep those toys out of the hands of younger siblings.

When shopping for toys, also examine the quality. Make sure toys meet the toy safety standards from the CPSC and don’t have any broken parts. Consider the size of the toy. If a toy is too heavy, a child definitely could get hurt if it falls on him or her.

Read content labels carefully to make sure that the toy does not contain lead or paint that could be toxic. And finally, if your child will be receiving a bike or roller blades this year, don’t forget to include the safety equipment: helmet, kneepads and wrist guards.

Dr. Paul Sirbaugh is the director of pre-hospital medicine at Texas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. For more information on Texas Children’s Emergency Center, visit

These toy safety tips are courtesy of