Toy Safety Tips for Holiday Shoppers

Scripps offers practical advice to help parents buy the safest and best toys for kids of all ages

Wooden toys and plastic toys fro children

Scripps offers practical advice to help parents buy the safest and best toys for kids of all ages

There’s only one thing on kids’ minds as we get closer to the holidays: toys. The bigger, the better and the more, the merrier. What child doesn’t want the latest game or gadget?


However, when it comes to choosing gifts, toy safety should be top of mind for parents. These days you can find an abundance of age-appropriate toys online or at your local retailer, from development toys for babies to fun-yet-educational toys for older children. But even popular toys from well-known brands can cause harm if they fall into tiny hands — especially if your young child has older siblings who leave their toys or games laying around. 


“When shopping for toys one of the first aspects to consider is safety,” agrees Colette Vassilian, DO, pediatrician at Scripps Clinic Mission Valley. “How the toy is constructed and the size of the pieces involved should be a factor in the toy-buying process.”

How to avoid dangerous toys

Before purchasing items on your child’s wish list, compare them to our toy safety checklist: 


  • Be wary about toys with small, detachable or moving parts, projectile features or long strings, all of which may pose safety risks. 
  • Avoid toys with small magnets or batteries due to their swallowing risk, which is highest between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. 
  • Don’t buy younger children toys that need to be plugged in.
  • Check whether the toy has sharp or pointed edges.
  • Make sure the toy isn’t breakable. Objects that might shatter when dropped can cause injuries or choking hazards.
  • Confirm whether the toy is nontoxic. Read the label to make sure art supplies, clay or other crafting materials aren’t harmful if accidentally ingested.

Other toy safety guidelines

Another consideration is the age of the child you’re buying for, Dr. Vassilian adds. Toys and games typically have a recommended age range printed on the packaging.


“Use your judgment based on the child’s developmental stage in order to maximize the contribution of the toy to the child’s exploration and creativity,” she says.


Keep in mind that toy safety should be a priority year-round, not just during the holidays. Inspect your child’s toys from time to time to make sure they’re still sturdy and safe. Look for potentially harmful wear-and-tear such as peeling paint or loose parts. 


Finally, you can check for toy recalls at any time. Organizations like the Consumer Product Safety Commission issue updates whenever toys and other retail products have been recalled due to safety concerns.

This content appeared in San Diego Health, a publication in partnership between Scripps and San Diego Magazine that celebrates the healthy spirit of San Diego.