Toy safety buying guide

Toys help children develop skills and understanding, but some can be dangerous.
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  • Updated:20 May 2008


Shopping for toys

Here are some general rules to help you when choosing a toy.

  • Look for a label, or instructions on the packaging, which should tell you:
    • Age recommendations
    • Instructions for proper assembly (if appropriate)
    • Proper use and supervision (if appropriate)
    • Always remove and carefully dispose of all packaging before giving a toy to a baby or small child.
    • Where appropriate, make sure your child understands any important instructions.
    • "Not suitable for children under three" — this is a safety warning, not an indication of skill level or intelligence. For example, it's illegal for toys (and their parts) suitable for children under three to be so small that they can present a choking hazard. As a guide, if a toy or its parts can fit wholly into a 35 mm film canister, don't give it to a child under three years of age.
    • Make sure the toy and any of its parts are sufficiently large.
    • Check toys regularly for loose parts that could present a choking danger
    • Note: ingestion/inhalation test cylinders are available in baby specialty stores.
    • Buy washable, non-breakable toys for babies.
    • Make sure there are no:
      • Sharp edges
      • Sharp points
      • Rough surfaces
      • Small parts that could be bitten or could break off.
      • If a sharp edge or a sharp point is essential to the function of the toy — for a toy sewing machine or toy scissors for example — make sure you show your child how to use it safely and always supervise.
      • Check there are no gaps or holes where a child could trap their fingers.
      • Be wary of toys that make loud noises particularly toys that are held against the ear, such as walkie talkies and toy mobile phones — as they can be harmful to hearing.
      • Toy chests and boxes should be designed not to trap or close on top of children, or better still they should have a lightweight removable lid. Anything big enough to crawl inside must have ventilation holes. Also, make sure the lid is fitted with rubber or other stoppers that allow a gap of 12 mm or more when the lid is closed so that small fingers can't be crushed and to assist with ventilation.
      • If you're buying a toy that shoots projectiles, only choose ones that have a soft, one-piece dart or non removable suction caps. The projectile musn't be small enough to pose a choking hazard. Also, make sure that the firing mechanism won't discharge any other objects, like stones or nails, and that the projectile's impact is weak enough not to cause injury.
      • Check for ventilation before buying tents, masks or helmets.
      • Ensure that ride-on toys are stable and appropriate to the age of the child. Toy bikes should have effective brakes which can be applied by the rider.
      • Swimming aids and flotation devices shouldn't be considered 'toys'. Adult supervision is essential with these devices. Check that they're marked to comply with the Australian Standard, and follow the instructions carefully.
      • Think about whether the toy fits your child's developmental needs. Toys meant for older children can be totally inappropriate or even dangerous for younger children.

      Note: the information provided in this guide is advisory only.



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