Updated: Apr 23, 2020
Tips for shopping for great gifts for kids that are safe
We all want to be confident that our beloved children will enjoy their holiday & birthday gifts without suffering injury or poisoning while playing with them. This blog post is intended to provide links to resources about toy safety & age appropriate gifts for kids, & to help parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, & teachers spot recalled toys & possible dangers.
When shopping for gifts for kids, here are some quick hits that tell you a gift is probably a good selection:
"lead free" label on painted & metal toys-Lead causes permanent brain damage & exposure is especially toxic for young children
"flame resistant or flame retardant" label on fabric toys & pjs.
"UL " label on electronic toys, meaning they meet safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratories
"No Phthalates," "BPA Free" labels on plastic products- Plastics labeled #1, 2, 4, or 5 are considered safer than other plastics. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic items are believed to be safer than those made of vinyl or PVC. Safety of Phthalates is still being debated. There are many varieties & they have been widely used since the 1950s in lotions for both adults & kids, in cosmetics, modeling polymer craft clay, plastic toys such as squeeze toys, bath books, child care products like teethers, pacifiers, & bottles, & in a multitude of other household items. According to U.S. PIRG Education Fund, phthalates have been linked to health risks including, "... asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity, type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopmental issues, behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development, & male fertility issues." In our modern world, it is practically impossible to eliminate phthalates from our lives, but we can look for items that claim to be phthalate free.
"nontoxic" label on art materials
"ASTM D-4236" label on crayons & paint means the material has been evaluated & passed examination for safety by the American Society for Testing & Materials
If you are shopping for used or older toys, it is always a good idea to check for safety recalls before making a purchase. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) monitors toys made in the USA or imported into the USA after 1995. Their hotline phone number is (800) 638-2772 (CPSC). The CPSC publishes information on recalled toys & lets consumers report safety issues. Click here for their link for recalled toys.
CPSC does not not test all toys, & not all toys on store shelves meet CPSC standards. Other good resources for toy safety information are U.S. PIRG Education Fund & SafeKids.org. Click here for the U.S. PIRG Education Fund list of dangerous toys. Click here for a list of recent child-related product recalls from Safekids.org's webpage. Safekids.org even lets you sign up to get emailed notices of new child related recalls.
When shopping for toys for small kids, be aware that little magnets & batteries have been responsible for child injuries & deaths. According to WebMD, swallowed "...magnets can seriously damage the stomach or intestine by attracting each other through the lining of different loops of intestine. Ultimately, the magnets could cause a lack of blood flow in the lining and puncture the lining of the intestine." Anyone who swallows multiple magnets should receive immediate medical attention. Babies, toddlers, & people of any age with behavioral conditions, should not have access to toys that include small magnets that can be swallowed. The same goes for batteries. Swallowed batteries can cause choking, internal bleeding, & chemical burns. Battery-operated toys should have battery cases that are screwed shut so little kids can't get to the batteries.
Avoid toys that have sharp, pointed edges that pose a danger if a child falls on the toy, & toys with long cords or strings that can entangle around a small child's neck & strangle them. Steer clear of really loud toys. Toys that make noise should be used at a level that will not cause hearing damage (under 65 decibels).
A key to giving great gifts for kids is giving things are are appropriate for the child's age. Most toy manufacturers label toys for specific age groups, but use your judgement regarding your gift recipients' temperament & habits. Marbles, coins, broken balloons, tiny balls, & games with pieces that are 1.75 inches in diameter or smaller are choking hazards for kids under 3 years of age, or any child who still puts things in his or her mouth. Electric toys with heating elements are recommended only for children over 8 years old. Children should be taught to use electric toys properly, cautiously & with adult supervision. For detailed information on age appropriate gifts for children , check out the following links:
KidsHealth.org's webpage, http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/smart-toys.html
National Association for the Education of Young Children's webpage, http://www.naeyc.org/ecp/resources/goodtoys
Lastly, nothing is a safety substitute for adult supervised play.