Toy safety reviews

We tested 23 toys against safety standards, and over half of them failed.
 
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03.Toy safety checklist

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

Labels

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; plastic bags in particular can be a suffocation hazard. And where appropriate, make sure your child understands any important instructions.

 

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"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. Avoid toys with small components (such as beads and buttons) that could easily detach if pulled, squeezed or twisted, or when the toy is dropped.
  • Check toys regularly for loose parts that could present a choking danger

Ingestion/inhalation test cylinders are often available in baby specialty stores.

Surfaces and edges

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 in a toy, where a child could trap their fingers.

Magnets

Small, powerful magnets, if detached from the toy, are very dangerous if swallowed. If two or more such magnets are swallowed, the magnets can lock together through the intestinal walls and cause perforations and blockages. This is a very serious situation and can lead to infection and even death. Toys containing small, powerful magnets must have a suitable warning label, and just as with other small part choking hazards, the magnets should not come loose if the toy is dropped, pulled or twisted.

Batteries

Batteries are common in many toys. Make sure they are not be accessible to small children - battery compartments should be secured with a screw or be otherwise inaccessible. Small button batteries in particular are a hazard if swallowed as they can lodge in the throat and cause severe burns or even death.

Noises

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.

Trap hazards

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 shuts slowly and 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.

Projectiles

If you're buying a toy that shoots projectiles, only choose ones that have a soft, one-piece dart or non removable suction caps, and make sure the tip or cap is large enough. The projectile mustn't be small enough to pose a choking hazard. Also, make sure that the firing mechanism won't discharge any other objects, like sharp pencils, stones or nails, and that the projectile's impact is weak enough not to cause injury.

Ventilation

Check for adequate breathing and ventilation gaps if buying tents, masks or helmets.

Ride-on toys

Ensure that ride-on toys are stable and appropriate to the age of the child. Children's bikes should have effective brakes which can be applied by the rider.

Water safety

Swimming aids and flotation devices should always be used only under adult supervision. Flotation aids such as inflatable rings or armbands are not life-saving devices. Check that they're marked to comply with the Australian Standard, and follow the instructions carefully.

Development stages

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.

The information provided in this guide is advisory only.

 
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