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Toy safety

toy; safe; injuries; danger; gun; sharp; swallow; small; piece; plastic; cancer; play; injury; balloon. ;

For children to get the most out of toys they must be safe and the right toy for the child’s age and ability. Some toys such as bicycles and skateboards are not easy to manage and children need some help before they can use them safely. Other toys may not be safe because they are for older children, or because they are not well made. Here are some ideas about what to look for.

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Reasons for toy injuries

It is normal for young children to explore, touch and move whatever they see.  You cannot teach a young child to play safely.  Child safety depends on you.

  • Put away things that they should not touch. 
  • Watch what they do. 
  • Stop them if what they do is unsafe.

There are different reasons why children get hurt by toys.

  • Sometimes the toys are dangerous in themselves such as guns that shoot something out.
  • Some toys are not well made and parts can break off easily.
  • Some toys have small parts that come off and could be swallowed by a young child, or pushed up noses or into ears.
  • Some have sharp edges.
  • Some may be fine for older children but dangerous for younger children.

Buying safe toys

  • Buy toys that are suitable for the child's age. If it is labelled 'Not suitable for children under 3' that means it is dangerous for that age group - it is not an indication of skill level or intelligence needed.
    • Even if your child is very bright and could play with older children’s toys, young children could still swallow small pieces that older children would not put in their mouths.
  • Get advice on good brands. Ask teachers or at toy libraries.
  • Look for possible dangers yourself - such as small parts (loose or easy to break off), sharp edges, long strings or ribbons (that could choke a young child), and small ends on baby toys that could reach back into the baby’s mouth.

Dangers with particular kinds of toy

  • Stuffed toys - look for buttons or eyes that could come off. Polystyrene bead stuffing is dangerous because the beads are easy to swallow or get into a child’s lungs.
  • Foam toys - Foam toys can be dangerous for young children if pieces can be bitten or pulled off. They are not suitable for children under 3 years because of the risk of choking.
  • Ride-on toys - look for the age on the label. Make sure they are strong and don’t tip over easily. Toys with a high back (eg horse with a high tail) are hard for very young children to get on and off safely.
  • Noisy toys - toys that can be held up to the ear such as toy radios, should not make a loud noise because they can damage hearing.
  • Poisonous toys - look for the non-toxic label on crayons, pencils or any toys that have liquid in them.
  • Shooting toys - toys such as guns that shoot something out, bows and arrows and darts can hurt children badly. If you do buy these, make sure the darts have suction caps on the end. Also make sure that nothing else can be fired from the toy.
  • Balloons - Most children like to play with balloons, but before they are blown up, or after they burst, the balloon pieces can be inhaled, blocking the airways.  Children have died due to balloons.  Watch young children when they play with a balloon and take balloon pieces away quickly.
  • Batteries - small batteries can cause poisoning if swallowed. 

What you can do at home

  • Toys bought for older children should be kept away from younger children if they are not safe for young children. (Remember to check when you have young children visiting).
  • Avoid toy boxes with heavy lids that can fall on heads and fingers.
  • Store toys low down so children do not have to climb up to get them.
  • Repair or throw away broken toys.
  • Keep toys out of passage ways and stairs where people may trip on them.
  • Make sure there is a safe area for play.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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