Gift Guide: Choosing the Safest Toys and Gifts for Children

Tips on Choosing Safe Toys and Gifts for KidsWhether you’re celebrating your daughter’s first birthday or Christmas shopping for a 3 year old, toys are one of the most popular gifts for infants, babies, toddlers, and young children. With annual lists of the ‘next best thing’ and technology’s increasing role in enhancing the types of toys available on today’s market, advancements have produced some pretty sophisticated options. Unfortunately, some of the coolest toys can also pose health risks and hazards that can endanger the welfare of a child.

Every year, hundreds of toys and games are recalled due to choking hazards, high lead levels, and other serious health and safety risks. The following guide is just a starting point to help you become more aware of safety issues to consider when gift-shopping for a child.

Common Gift and Toy Hazards for Kids

There are an estimated more than 260,000 children who pay a visit to an emergency room each year because of a toy-related injury or mishap. To make sure your well-meaning gifts do not contribute to these statistics, review some of the following hazards associated with kid’s gifts:

Choking Hazards

One of the most well-known hazards related to children’s gifts are stuffed animals made with glass and plastic features, such as teddy bear eyes, noses and buttons.

When shopping for kids (especially under the age of 3), seek toy parts that are bigger than a child’s mouth to prevent a choking hazard. A good test is to use a toilet paper roll. If a toy or a part can fit inside of the cylinder, then it is not safe.

Basically, stay away from gifts where a young child can inhale, swallow or choke on any of its parts, such as tiny balls, marbles, and puzzle pieces.

Monster Science and Super Star Science Colossal Water Balls were Recalled

For example, Monster Science and Super Star Science Colossal Water Balls were recalled in June 2013 for including parts that could be easily mistaken for candy by a child. When ingested, the marble-sized toy can expand inside of a child’s body and cause an obstruction in the intestines.

Items that Can Cause Suffocation

Some kid’s toys and gifts pose a risk of suffocation, and aren’t always easy to identify. For example, although a bean bag chair makes a fun, comfortable addition to a child’s room, those made with zippers and foam pellets can lead to suffocation and choking. We’ve all probably seen a bean bag chair that has seen better days…usually with stuffing and pellets leaking out. Children who ingest and inhale these materials can suffer clogged noses and mouths, making it difficult to breathe.

The same caution should be used when purchasing large stuffed animals (similar to the ones won at a state fair) – where many contain the same pellets and beaded foam that create a health hazard for young children.

Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and delayed mental and physical growth in children. Products designed for children 12 years or younger must meet guidelines to ensure their safety, which include lead limits of 90 parts per million (ppm) lead in painted items or those with a coated surface, such as painted furniture.Wooden Flipping Acrobat Toys Recalled for Excessive Levels of Lead

The threat of lead poisoning is also found in toys, kid’s clothing, jewelry (especially costume jewelry), blankets, strollers, footwear, and even books.

A few items to research before purchasing include: metal jewelry; books with metal spiral bindings; painted toys; artist paint sets; action figures; and bicycles.

Items Made with Phthalates

Used to make vinyl and other plastic items soft and flexible, phthalates belong to a group of chemicals that pose health concerns for children. While Congress permanently banned three types of phthalates (DEHP, DBP, and BBP) and restricts the use of others, it’s a good idea to investigate the materials used to make gifts, especially inflatable pool toys, bath toys, beach balls, and some dolls. Also, opt for unpainted wooden or cloth toys to avoid chemicals found in PVC plastic and similar materials.

Batteries & Burn Hazards

Button BatteriesIn addition to the hazards that the average battery may cause, button batteries found in small electronics and other educational devices should be monitored. Purchase gifts that have mechanisms in place to keep children from coming in contact with batteries, such as covers that must be screwed off using a tiny or specialized tool. If swallowed, a child can suffer from fatal internal injuries from the battery acid.

Batteries can also pose burn risks from malfunctioning parts.

Giggles International Toy Monkey Recalled for Burn Hazard

For example, the Giggles International Animated Monkey Toy shown above was recalled in December 2014 because the battery compartment had the potential to reach temperatures of up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit. Reports of toys overheating and actually melting their battery compartments had been made.

Toys with Strings and Cords

Some toys create a risk for strangulation when they are made with strings and cords measuring longer than 12 inches – like a play kitchen or telephone where handles are attached to potentially dangerous cords. Also, use caution when gifting mobiles and clothing with drawstrings.

Toys with Small Magnets

Small magnets in toys have the potential to fall out and be swallowed by a curious child. Incidents involving magnets have sent kids to the hospital, and have even resulted in surgery. Swallowing two or more magnets (or a magnet and a metal object) can actually cause discomfort in the intestinal walls, as the attraction between objects can cause blockages, holes, and infection if not discovered in time.

Be on the lookout for small magnets hidden in dolls, action figures, puzzles, construction sets, as well as used to hold together kiddie jewelry.

Sometimes, a toy or game will pose multiple health and safety hazards.

Discount School Supply Magnetic Color Sorting Board Recalled

For example, in May 2014, Discount School Supply Magnetic Color Sorting Boards were recalled for posing serious choking and internal injury risks from possible ingestion of magnet and metal balls. The plywood backing can crack, allowing small metal balls to fall out. The magnet can detach from wand. The paint on the metal balls also contained levels of lead that exceeded federal lead paint standards.

A Few Other Things to Think About when Shopping for Kid’s Gifts…

Whether it’s gifting a safety helmet alongside a brand new Huffy, or reading packages for any product warnings, the following tips can also help you select safe gifts for kids:

Follow Age-Appropriate Suggestions: Serving as a guideline for choosing the proper gift that meets the abilities and maturity level of a child, there’s a reason why games and toys come with a “recommended age” sticker or notice.

A Thumbs Down on Recalled ProductsCheck Product Recall Lists: To stay informed on the latest malfunctions, choking hazards and unsafe toys, don’t forget to check recall lists before gift-shopping for a young child. This is where you learn about the issues other consumers have had with a particular toy, before you purchase.

Online resources to note include:

SaverProducts.gov – Monitors the safety of products with a searchable database that includes kids toys, baby products, toys, and items that contain metals.

Recalls.gov – Managed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, this wide-ranging, searchable database highlights past and recent recalls related to consumer purchases, as well as many other areas of interest.

Toys ‘R’ Us Product Recall List – The popular chain maintains an ongoing list of products that have been recently recalled.

Parents.com Product Recall Finder for Toys & Games – Showcases important information regarding the latest toy and game recalls from the likes of Mattel, Fisher-Price, Playskool, Lego, Hasbro, and Disney.

Safe Kids Worldwide – This organization highlights the latest product recalls in chronological order; consumers can also sign up to receive recall alerts by email.

And, when you find safe, age-appropriate toys…don’t forget to add them to a PickUrGift list for the young gift recipients in your life. We also offer options for you to easily share your safe gift finds with other parents and family members.

Are there any other safety tips that you’d like to add?

About Yona Williams

In addition to being a freelance writer, foodie, art lover and book hoarder, Yona also enjoys researching and sharing the many different ways one can surprise or amaze loved ones with unique and unexpected gift ideas.

46 comments on “Gift Guide: Choosing the Safest Toys and Gifts for Children

  1. Great great post! I don’t have kids, but I’m always buying for them little presents and this is so useful!

  2. Thanks for these great tips. I always have to do research and imagine what could happen before purchasing toys for my boys. You would think all toys would be kid safe since they are for kids yet often this is not the case.

  3. These are great information. Couldn’t be more careful when it comes to kids, there are just too many harmful chemicals out there and the kids are very vulnerable.

  4. This is such a must read for parents with little ones! I am always surprised at the toys I find my kids playing with that could use a bit more baby-proofing!

  5. Wow! Scary! I remember being a little girl & getting hit in the head with a Radio Flyer wagon that one of the big kids picked up & spun around from the handle. I am surprised that I don’t have a huge whole in my head.

    • OUCH! That just hurt my head reading that…I got hit in the head with one of those harder yellow plastic bats from back in the days when I was probably 4 or 5 years old. I guess it wasn’t too bad since I remember the incident happening.

  6. Wow, thank you for sharing this list with us. Knowing what toys are ok to buy for for kids can be such a challenge these days! Saving those recall sites to my computer to refer back to when I need!

  7. These are all great tips for parents of young children. Registering for recall alerts is very important.

  8. When I see articles like this it makes me wonder how my generation ever lived to adulthood! There are so many things that are hazardous it can be overwhelming at times. Thanks for the tips!

  9. What a great list of tips and resources! It is so scary how dangerous some toys. This is a very useful reference. Thank you for writing this post.

  10. great list! thanks for sharing….:) safety first it is!

  11. This is really a great post and important one. Some of it is just common sense about choking hazards and such and at times it’s hard to know what is safe unless there is a recall. Thanks for the links to check them out.

  12. A lot of these I do check for still, even though my son is in first grade. We have a little grandbaby now too, and though we don’t see her often (she lives out of state) we do mail her little toys now and again and I check for safety first with those too.

  13. This is an awesome post indeed. I will have to share this with my sister and niece whom both have lil ones. I would always check for recalls on thing when it came to my kids. Thanks so much for sharing.

  14. Even though there are so many toys out there most people forget to buy age appropriate toys. I am even scared to think about my future child swallowing a battery because we forgot to check the toy or gifts given but this is great list to know.

  15. I’ve heard horror stories of babies swallowing batteries and having it cause harm to their esophagus. I am terrified of that!! Thanks for sharing this awesome review!

  16. Great information on safer toys. I have a 3 yr old that I am buying for Easter coming up.

  17. I’m so paranoid about chokin. Great list. We all need reminding.

  18. I’m so happy my daughter is not a kid anymore, reading all these warnings is very scary. I agree it is really important to get safe toys for your kids. Great tips.

  19. Oh gosh, it’s a scary world out there! 😛
    260,000 children visit the ER each year for toy related injuries? Like, in the world or in the US? That’s nuts! I had no idea there would be so many.
    There’s a book called Slow Death By Rubber Duck that addresses a lot of the chemicals in toys and our household products- an excellent read and I highly recommend it, if this type of stuff interests you.

  20. This is great, it’s so important for people to be aware of the hazards for the age of the child they’re buying for, especially when it’s not their own child. Safe, age appropriate gifts are so much better than having to tell your little one that they can’t play with it after they’ve opened it!

  21. It always amazes me how many toys and products get recalled. It’s so important to do your own research beforehand!

  22. Very interesting guid

  23. This is a great post. I know that with a 2 year old and 4 month old at home, I’m soooo paranoid over everything. I read an article online about a little boy that died from eating a watch battery and I am vigilant in making sure that we have nothing like that around the house. It’s so scary!

  24. What a great post! I love Melissa and Doug toys for gifts as they seem to be made out of natural products and are great for kids and their development! The only other advice I have is to be careful when giving candy as a gift- some parents hate when their kids get so much sugar.

  25. Things can be so scary when you have little ones!

  26. It’s really something we need to refresh ourselves on a lot. As our kids get older, we forget about some of this, but it’s important!

  27. That’s a lot of recalled products. Fortunately, I don’t have any of those in my house. Thank you very much for sharing this important information.

  28. I try to buy toys that are US/Europe made when possible. There’s too many questions about what is coming out of China.

  29. this is absolutly a very useful post. i like to read these kinds of posts because very ofte we forget about all these small aspects about thins which actually are very important. great post.

  30. I haven’t got any children at the moment but i know people who do so i will be sure to show them your post, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!

  31. This is such a great list. I’m constantly checking to make sure the toys I buy my grandkids are safe. I get real antsy with kids and deflated balloons. Also, it’s difficult when younger kids have access to their older siblings toys. You can never be too careful.

  32. Thanks so much for your safety guide. I try to select the best toys possible and check the recall lists before making a purchase.

  33. It is crazy how many toys are not safe for kids. This is a great list of toys to avoid and get a safe toy for kids!

  34. It’s really hard to choose the safest toys for our children. Here in the Philippines, a lot fo toys that came from China are found to contain lead so they were recalled.

  35. I always worry about stuff like this! I am most worried about toxic chemicals in toys!

  36. Thank you for this post and for the resource links at the end! They will come in very, very handy!

  37. This is a really thoughtful and helpful post! It gives me a guidance on how to discern toys whenever I purchase them. Thanks for sharing!

  38. I am always scared of magnets because if 2 are ingested it can be deadly. Super scary!

  39. Such a great post for us parents. My son really want a bean bag chair but I never got to buy him one. Maybe it’s better not to have one.

  40. This is such an informative post for new parents as well as experienced parents. Thanks for posting all these tips!

  41. All my friends kids are older now but this is a great list. Thanks for the links.

  42. Thank you SO MUCH! Sometimes I see people letting their kids play with stuff that just makes me cringe.

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