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How to ensure kids' toys are safe when buying gifts

Christmas toy safety

As children write their holiday wish lists, it’s important for adults to know that most toys are not one-size-fits-all. Catalogs, television commercials, store displays and online advertising inundate us with images of the latest toys and gadgets, but not every toy is right for every child. Make sure you and other gift-givers are safety smart before you hit the stores this holiday season. 

When choosing toys for children, pay close attention to warning labels and manufacturer’s guidelines. More than $22 billion are spent on toys and games in the United States every year, and most of those toys are very safe. Warning labels and manufacturers’ instructions tell you how to use the product safely. 

“If the manufacturer sets a minimum age or other restrictions, there’s a reason,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “A label reading ‘Not appropriate for children under 3’ may be present because the toy poses a choking hazard, not because it’s too difficult for a 2-year-old.”

If you buy toys secondhand or get hand-me-downs, visit to make sure the toy hasn’t been recalled for safety reasons. Sign up for email alerts on the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website,, or download the CPSC Recalls app to your smart phone to keep up-to-date on toy recalls beyond the holiday itself. If a new toy comes with a product registration card, mail it in so the manufacturer can contact you if the item is ever recalled. Report safety concerns about toys to the CPSC at 800-638-2772 or Your experience could be part of a pattern that might lead to a recall.

Safe Kids Kansas also recommends:

  • Buy age-appropriate toys. Consider your child’s age when purchasing a toy or game. It’s worth a second to read the instructions and warning labels to make sure it’s just right for your child. Avoid building sets with small magnets for children. Keep rare earth magnets and adult desktop magnet toys out of reach and out of sight of children. Magnets are extremely dangerous if swallowed.
  • Identify dangerous small parts. Look at the product labeling for age recommendations. Use a small parts tester or cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper to identify choking hazards. Do not let small children play with anything that can fit into one of these cylinders. Products that grow larger when placed in water must be kept out of reach of children. These products can be swallowed and become lodged internally, requiring surgical removal.
  • Keep batteries out of sight and out of reach. Lithium button batteries are coin-sized batteries that can easily be swallowed by children and can come from many devices, such as remote controls. Other places you may see them are: singing greeting cards, watches, remotes, bathroom scales, and flameless candles. If a child swallows a battery, go to the emergency room immediately. Tell doctors and nurses that your child may have swallowed a battery. Do not let the child eat or drink until a chest x-ray can determine if a battery is present. Do not induce vomiting. Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 for additional treatment information.
  • Buy the proper safety gear. Riding toys account for the greatest number of toy-related injuries. If you purchase a riding toy, such as a scooter, skateboard, in-line skates or bicycle, remember that the gift isn’t complete without a helmet and appropriate protective gear.
  • Inspect toys. Check children’s play areas regularly for broken toys and dispose of them. Do not let young children play with toys that have straps, cords or strings longer than seven inches, due to the risk of strangulation. 
  • Actively supervise children. Caregivers should actively supervise children playing with any toy that has small parts, moving parts, electrical or battery power, cords, wheels or any other potentially risky component. Simply being in the same room as your child is not necessarily supervising. Active supervision means giving your child your full attention.
  • Store toys safely. Teach children to put toys away after playing to help prevent falls and make sure toys intended for younger children are stored separately from those for older children. 
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