In 2020, emergency departments in hospitals around the country treated nearly 400 kids aged 12 and younger each day for toy-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We can all agree that any number of injuries to children for any reason would be too many. What might make toys unsafe, and what can we do to prevent injuries? With the holiday season coming up, it’s important to know what to look out for when purchasing toys for your children and overseeing them while at play. Here’s how to help your child enjoy playing with toys, keeping safety in mind.
It might seem funny to think of maintaining your child’s toys like you would a car, but keeping toys in good repair can help protect kids from harm. This can be as simple as checking wood blocks for splinters, or sewing up a rip in a stuffed animal’s arm before your little one has a chance to swallow any stuffing. Taking the time to look over bikes for rust and the backyard swing set for damaged supports can keep a healthy environment for play.
Appropriate supervision keeps kids safe, with a responsible adult to guide them as they explore. Especially when you introduce a new toy, it’s a good idea to keep watch as children figure out how to use it.
Don’t forget key safety gear, like helmets for bike riding and cushioned mats for new crawlers. Even the safest toys can be made unsafe if children don’t have the right gear to protect them.
It also helps to think about what toys are made of: paint, ink, or substances finding their way into children’s mouths should be safe, both for the intended purposes and the more creative uses that kids can come up with.
You wouldn’t buy a bicycle for an infant, just like you wouldn’t give a teething toy to a six-year-old. Age-appropriate toys are often more interesting for the child, and safer, too. Targeting your child’s developmental age with the toys you purchase can help set them up for a lifetime of learning fun.
Young infants are getting to know the world, taking in their surroundings with their ears and eyes and figuring out their place in the world. As they learn mobility, they love toys they can grab for – just know that anything you give them is likely to go in their mouths. Think of rattles, teething toys, soft toys, board books, unbreakable mirrors and devices that play nursery rhymes or lullabies. Toys should be 1.25 inches wide and 2.25 inches long at a minimum, big enough that they can’t become lodged in a child’s windpipe.
With developmental leaps happening nearly every day for very young children, a lot can change in just a few months. Older infants are on the move and ready to get around. As they get stronger, choose toys that let them develop their motor skills, like nesting toys, blocks for building, and large balls. They might even be using their imaginations more, so dolls, puppets and push vehicles made of wood or plastic can help them exercise their creative muscles too.
One-year-olds like to move, and they’re crawling, pulling themselves up, walking and even navigating stairs, making adult supervision especially important. They love toys like balls, pegboards, and ones with parts like dials, knobs and switches. They’re also often ready to start creating, aided by large, nontoxic markers or imagination fuel like toy phones, dolls, strollers, and dress-up gear.
Two-year-olds are often active kiddos, talking and learning about risk and danger, often by testing their limits: climbing, jumping, and rolling. Supervised time on play structures can keep them engaged, and cars or bikes they push along with their feet gives them an opportunity to explore new types of movement. Improving motor control lets them maneuver smaller rolling toys like model cars, and you can offer objects to sort by color and shape to occupy their developing brains.
At preschool and kindergarten age, introducing picture books with more detailed pictures and words than toddler books can help them learn and grow. Markers and crayons let them create their own stories, along with craft supplies like paste and magazines for making collages. As they learn to share and engage with other kids, they’ll be drawn to games to play with others—puzzles, targets with balls to throw at them, and bicycles or tricycles to pedal around.
Early childhood development can be a fast-paced and challenging time. But you don’t need to go through those critical years alone. CHP offers community-based family services like Parent Liaisons and Parents as Teachers, designed to help you and your little ones thrive as they grow. Reach out to your nearest clinic to find out how to get easy access to these programs or establish a primary care provider for your kiddos.