“We actually work year-round to ensure that toys are safe, first of all, and that the industry knows what the standards are, so that they can comply and that consumers have some information on how they can choose safe and age-appropriate toys,” said Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of safety standards and regulatory affairs for the Toy Industry Association.
Lawrence recommends shopping at trusted retailers and making sure to follow toy age recommendations.
“Only 27 percent of parents were paying attention to the age grade on the package, but it’s really important,” she said. “It’s a safety guidance; it’s not about how smart our children are. It’s about the developmental abilities of the child at a given age.”
Plus, parents should adhere to package warnings and instructions.
“When presents arrive, it’s tempting to just jump in and start playing, but it’s really important to go through the instructions with your child, read through them, and even demonstrate how to play safely and appropriately,” Lawrence said.
Be sure to take note of small toy parts or other hazards in the play space that should be kept away from children under three. If an item fit entirely within a small parts tester, the federal standard for toy safety for small parts, then it is considered to be a small part.
Don’t forget about the toy chest itself— while it’s great for organizing, it needs to have a lid that won’t hurt little fingers and should be made of soft material. Lawrence advises anchoring toy chests to a wall so they don’t tip over.
“If you’re using shelving units or dressers or other furniture in a child’s play environment, those need to be secured to the wall,” she said. “You don’t want the furniture to tip especially when a child sees a toy or other item attracted to them on a high shelf they may be tempted to climb the furniture.”