Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or some other occasion, December is a big month for gift giving. For children, the safety of the toys they receive is very important. Here are some guidelines for anyone buying toys or evaluating the safety of toys received as gifts.

Toys Should Suit the Age and Skills of the Child

The packaging for toys provides a lot of information, including the appropriate age of the child who will be playing with the toy and any warnings. The age recommendation is based on safety and the expected developmental stage. If the child has not reached the minimum age, the toy may not be safe for them or may be too advanced.

Sometimes, even if the child has reached the minimum age, you have to consider their skills and abilities to be sure the toy is safe for them, will interest them, and is within their abilities to use. You should also consider if the toy could be dangerous for a younger child in the family. In addition, you should read all the warnings and instructions for the toy, looking for any potential issues.

Inspect Toys for Safety Issues Before Purchasing

Even if the toy is age-appropriate, examine it for sharp edges or points. Be certain that the toy is sturdy. Toys to avoid include those that have flying parts, small pieces, parts that could be pulled or broken off, and buttons or batteries. If a toy, or its parts, is small enough to fit in a toilet paper tube, then it is a potential choking hazard.

In addition, avoid ropes, cords, balloons, magnets, cap guns, electric toys, and toys with a heating element. Also, learn what materials are used to make the toy, and avoid those with materials such as lead and phthalates. Check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website for the latest guidelines, warnings, and recalls.

Look for Safety Certification Label

Look for the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) certification label. This assures you that the toy has passed its safety tests.

Sports Equipment Should Be Accompanied With Safety Equipment

If you are giving sports equipment, be sure to also include safety equipment such as helmets and padding. Be sure that the safety equipment is properly fitted as well.

Buying Toys for Children with Disabilities

If you are buying toys for a child with disabilities, consider the senses to which the toy appeals. It is important to think about which senses might be pleasing and which might be irritable for your child—such as certain textures or loud noises. If your child has an occupational or physical therapist, ask if they have any toy recommendations. Toys that promote play between parents and child(ren) can be a bonding experience, and other interactive toys may help the child play with others (this is a great tip for all children). Make sure the size of the toy is something the child can manipulate, and buy toys that are suitable to the child’s developmental ability, rather than the age listed on the box.

Apply These Same Guidelines to Toys Received as Gifts

These buying guidelines should also be applied to toys received as gifts. It can be hard to decide to return or put away a toy that someone bought as a gift, but the giver would feel worse if the child was injured by it. Always put the child’s safety first!


Even after all this scrutiny, it is still a good idea to show children how to use toys safely and to supervise them to be sure that they are using the toys properly. In addition, monitor toys for damage that may cause them to become unsafe.

We hope that these toy buying guidelines are helpful! If you or your family have any health-related questions or issues, please contact us and set up a telehealth visit.

Do you have more questions about your child’s development and health in Salem Oregon?  Contact our staff at WFMC Health or become a new patient today!

The post was first published on wfmchealth.org.