Top 5 Tips for Buying Fun, Safe Toys This Holiday Season
The holidays are right around the corner, which means the countdown is on to find the perfect toys and games for the kids on your shopping list. They, of course, have to be wildly entertaining, and most importantly, safe for children to play with. Finding the right toys might seem like a daunting task – but it doesn’t have to be! To help you pick out toys that are both fun and safe for the children in your life, I’ve put together my top tips to keep in mind before you get started on your holiday shopping:
Follow the age guidance and other safety information on toy packaging.
A recent national survey found one in nine U.S. parents “rarely” or “never” checks the age grading guidelines for toys … And nearly a third only checks “sometimes”. It may seem harmless, but giving a toy or game that doesn’t match a child’s age isn’t appropriate. The age grading isn't about how smart a child is – it’s safety guidance based on the developmental skills and abilities of children at a given age, and the specific features of the toy, so be sure to always follow the age recommendation.
Choose a toy that matches your child’s age and interests.
There is no single “hot toy” this holiday season. There are loads of wonderful playthings out there for children of varying interests and abilities. The perfect toy is the one that’s right for your child. If a toy is too advanced, they’ll become frustrated, and if it’s too simple, they’ll get bored. Providing kids with age-appropriate playthings they truly enjoy will help them reap the full benefits of playtime.
Avoid toys with small parts for kids under 3.
Toys that have small parts are fine for older kids but can pose a choking hazard for children 3 years old and younger. Toys that contain small parts will have a warning label on the packaging and be age-graded accordingly, so keep a careful eye out as you shop.
Shop at a retailer you know and trust.
Look for established businesses. Store staff will usually be knowledgeable about age-appropriate toys, and when you're shopping online, that information will likely be included in the product description or elsewhere on the site. The same may not be true for garage sales, secondhand stores, or temporary retailers that may not be around after the holidays; these sellers may not be knowledgeable of the latest safety information and certified products.
Once the gifts are unwrapped…
Dispose of all unnecessary toy packaging and gift-wrap as soon as possible (piles of discarded gift-wrap can conceal sharp objects and the edges of hard plastic packaging that can cut small fingers). If you have children of different ages in the home, including a child under three, make sure you store the older children's toys away from the younger child to prevent the young one from having access to small parts. Toys should be stored safely in an easily accessible storage bin to prevent slips, trips and falls.
It’s important to know that all toys sold in the U.S., no matter where they are made, are subject to strict mandatory safety standards. Before a toy makes its way to a store shelf or website, it’s required to have been tested and certified as compliant with more than 100 standards and tests for safety – and be certified by an accredited toy testing lab. So when you’re shopping, you can relax! Just be sure to pick out toys that match a child’s age and interests … and don’t be shy about getting on the floor to play with the kids during the holidays. Showing little ones how to properly use a toy or game is the best way to make sure they understand how to safely enjoy it.
For other helpful toy safety tips, check out www.PlaySafe.org.
Joan Lawrence, a.k.a. the “Toy Safety Mom,” is a lifelong child safety advocate with more than 20 years of experience in the toy industry and senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs at the Toy Industry Association (TIA). She regularly gives advice on toy safety issues in the media, including Good Morning America, CNN, CBS News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune.