Toy Safety

kidsgiftguide.com.auSafety must come first when choosing a gift for a child.  Always read the packaging to determine the safety and age-appropriateness of the product.  There is a government safety guideline website worth a look if you are unfamiliar with toy safety:  www.productsafety.gov.au   The following general guidelines should be kept in mind when choosing gifts for children.

• Supervise babies and kids.  In general, it is safer to keep the play area tidy and supervise when babies and kids are playing to keep them safe at all times.  If there are warnings and instructions provided on the toys, then try to follow them.

• Make sure the toy is suitable for the child. Check the age range on the packaging.   Is it suited to the child’s level of ability? Most toys have a “recommended age” sticker, which can be taken as a starting point in your selection process. Be realistic about your child’s abilities and level of maturity when choosing an age-appropriate toy.  Some throwing toys or those that shoot projectiles are unsuitable for a child under the age of four.  Even some six-year-olds aren’t mature enough to handle these toys. Likewise, if a four-year-old still puts everything into his mouth, continue to steer clear of toys and games with small parts and pieces.

• Think big for those under three.  Be particularly careful with toys for children under three.  Toy parts should be bigger than your child’s mouth up to the age of three to avoid any chance of choking.  Remember, younger children play with older children’s toys, so small toys must be removed from the younger child’s reach.

• Is the toy too heavy? Could a child be hurt if it fell on him or her?  If so, don’t buy it.

• Look for toys that are well put together. Check for loose hair and small parts, sharp edges and points. Tails should be securely sewn, seams of stuffed animals should be reinforced, and paint shouldn’t peel. Stuffed animals should also be free of buttons, yarn, ribbons, or anything your child could pull off and put in his mouth.

• Is your child physically ready for this toy? For example, parents with older children often buy a bicycle one size too big to save themselves having to buy a new bike the next year.  This tactic can lead to injury since their child may not have the physical skills to safely control the bigger bike.

• Is the toy in good condition? Check toys for wear and throw away damaged toys. Used toys passed down from family members or bought at jumble or car boot sales can be worn or frayed, which may sometimes be harmful. Examine all new or used toys for any buttons, batteries, ribbons, eyes, beads, or plastic appendages that could easily be chewed or snapped off.

• Is there a string or cord on the toy longer than 30cms / 12 inches? A cord can too easily be wrapped around a young child’s neck, risking strangulation. Once your child can climb up on his hands and knees, remove cot gyms or hanging mobiles from his cot. Also, be particularly vigilant about older toys. For example, the five-year-old model of a popular play kitchen has a phone attached with a potentially deadly cord, while the latest model of the same kitchen has the more current and safer cordless phone.

• Check garden swings and slides. Are they robust and safely fixed?

Find out more by checking out the Choice toy safety checklist at www.choice.com.au

Search for products that have been recalled at the government’s Product Recalls Australia  www.productsafety.gov.au

If you find a toy you believe to be unsafe, report it to your state Office of Fair Trading.

News Flash:  With Christmas around the corner, be alert to cheap toys which could be harmful or even lethal to young children due to choking hazards, toxic coatings, sharp edges and moving parts that could crush a child’s finger.  As well, watch out for toys that fire high-powered projectiles, cap guns and toys that have loose magnets or produce loud noises.  Many unsafe toys are sold by small discount traders.  In a blitz by the Office of Fair Trading last year, almost 2000 toys were pulled from the shelves.