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Keeping your child safe around toys

Just because you can buy a toy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is 100% safe for your child. Here are some things to look out for when purchasing toys for your child:

Toy safety marks

No safety for under 3 years sign

Keep an eye out for age guides too, the above symbol means a toy is not suitable for children up to 3 years of age. From 0 – 3 years of age, children like to explore their environment with their mouths, so some toys with small parts are not suitable as they can be a choking hazard.

Remember to use your instincts when buying a toy, just because a toy has all of the correct markings, doesn’t necessarily mean the toy is safe for your child. These markings can be faked, or you might feel that the toy still presents a safety hazard to your child; for example if it contains small parts or fur.

Children playing with play clay in classroom.

Common safety hazards

If you’re buying or inheriting a toy, look out for these potential pitfalls:

  • Batteries and button batteries can be very harmful to young children. Many toys developed in the UK have battery compartments that are hard to access, so always check these to make sure. Learn more about button batteries here
  • If you’re using a battery powered toy, don’t mix older and newer batteries in the same compartment. This can cause the toy to overheat
  • Be cautious if you’re buying toys online or from markets, discount stores or temporary shops, as they may not follow the appropriate safety regulations
  • Older toys may not comply with the more stringent safety laws that are present today. If your child is using a second hand toy, make sure it is in good condition and has the original instructions. If you’re considering passing down a toy or donating it to a charity shop, remember that a damaged toy could go on to cause accidents for other children. It’s best to throw these away
  • When sharing toys with other children, keep in mind that a toy used by an older child may not be suitable for a toddler or baby

Tips for individual toys

Keep cot toys, cot bumpers and cot nests out of your baby’s cot, the Lullaby Trust’s advice is that ‘the safest cot is a clear cot’. This reduces the risk of head-covering and other accidents.

Noisy toys such as cap guns can damage hearing. Don’t allow children to hold them near their own or anyone else’s ears.

Slimes and putties can cause irritation, diarrhoea, vomiting and cramps due to an excess use of boron in the ingredients. Don’t let your child play with slimes and putties on their own.

Kites should not be used near overhead power lines. If a kite gets caught, the electricity can travel down the cord and cause serious injury.

Laser pointers can be powerful enough to damage central vision if shone into a child’s eye. There’s no way of knowing how strong a laser pointer is, so keep them away from children at all times.

Make sure garden toys such as swings or climbing frames are not easily toppled over. Use them over soft grass or soil and make sure there are no hard edges, spikes or glass where children might fall. Regularly check fastenings and ropes for looseness and wear. Be aware of the risk of slips and trips on artificial grass when it gets wet too.

girl in the playground

Paddling pools must be emptied after use and put away. Babies can drown in as little as 5cm (2″) of water – this depth can easily collect in an empty paddling pool left out in the rain. Learn more about reducing the risks of drowning here.

Keep plastic bags away from under fives. Tie any carrier bags up and keep them out of sight and reach. Plastic sheets that seal and protect many new toys, products and appliances, especially large ones, can also present a risk if they’re not thrown away immediately.

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Page last reviewed: 25-11-2021

Next review due: 25-11-2024