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How to Buy Safe Toys This Holiday Season

Flavia Fioretti, MD FAAP

Merry Christmas! Yes, it’s that time of the year and we all get excited with presents we are going to give (and receive!). However, we need to pay special attention to the toys we are giving to our children. The most important recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is to match toys with specific age groups of children. So, make sure to check the recommended ages on all toy packages this year. It’s important to understand that the different age groups are determined by safety characteristics, not intelligence nor maturity of children.

Talking about toys reminds us how important it is to have interactive play, and how media can harm our children’s social interactions and have a negative effect on their development.  

Today’s children grow up immersed in digital media. One might think this is good for their development, but can have both positive and negative effects on healthy development. The AAP provides recommendations for interactive media use to help families balance digital and real life. When media takes the place of physical activity, off hands-on play and face-to-face social interaction, we have a big problem!! Too much screen time can also harm the amount and quality of sleep. Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms. Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline. You will find the AAP Media recommendations below as well.

With this in mind, here are a few tips of safety according to the different age groups:

Babies and toddlers (from 0 to 3 years of age):

  • Check for small and loose parts (such as batteries or magnets) for all toys. These are potential choking hazard for children so be sure all parts are larger than the child’s mouth
  • Be aware of sharp edges, strings and cords, especially around newborns
  • Check if the toy is strong enough and will withstand chewing
  • Avoid toys made of PVC and lead-based paint, and make sure the label says “nontoxic”
  • Stuffed toys should be washable
  • Make sure the toy is not too loud for the child
  • Remember all toys should be kept out of the baby’s crib

Older children: (all of the above in addition to)

  • Avoid toys connected to electricity (power cord)
  • Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air as these present potential eye injuries
  • Make sure there is adult supervision when children are playing with remote control toys
  • Use of protective gear (helmets, knee and elbow pads) for all ride-able toys at all times while playing
  • Use of electronic devices only under the supervision of an adult and with time constraint (maximum of 1 hour for children 2 to 5

When choosing what to buy, don’t forget toys should use as learning opportunity and a discovery tool. More importantly, use the toys as a mean to bring kids closer to you, as parents and caregivers. Remember the most educational toys are the ones that encourage interaction with an adult and stimulate their imagination.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and have also issued safety tips that can be found on the links below:

AAP recommendations for Media Use:

– For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.

– For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.

– For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.


Guidance for the Clinician in Rendering Pediatric Care
Danette Glassy, MD; Judith Romano, MD; and the Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care
Selecting Appropriate Toys for Young Children: The Pediatrician’s Role

Goodson B, Bronson MB. Which Toy for Which Child: A Consumer’s Guide
for Selecting Suitable Toys, Ages Birth Through Five. Washington, DC: Consumer Product Safety Commission.

American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use




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