Toy Safety and Injury Prevention

Billions of toys for children of all ages are sold each year in the United States. Unfortunately, toys also are linked with thousands of injuries each year, some of which result in death.

Children ages 4 and under are especially at risk for injury from toys. Injuries can range from falling, choking, strangulation, burning, drowning and even poisoning. However, the leading cause of toy-related death is choking, usually on latex balloons.

Injury often results when a toy is misused or used by children who are too young for that particular toy. Toys with small parts, designed for older children, can cause choking when a small child puts this toy in his or her mouth.

Knowing what dangers are linked with certain toys and age groups can help you better protect your child from injuries.

  • Choose only toys that are age-appropriate and meet your child's skill level and interest (read the toy's labeling).
  • Use Mylar balloons instead of latex balloons because of the danger of suffocation. Children should not be allowed to play with uninflated latex balloons.
  • Strings, straps and cords on any toy should be less than 7 inches long to prevent strangulation. Remove crib mobiles when your infant is able to pull up on his or her hands and knees (usually about 5 months old).
  • Children under 16 years of age should not use high-velocity BB or pellet guns.
  • Children should be watched closely when playing with cap guns. They may cause burns as well as noise damage if they are fired closer than a foot to the ear.
  • Check toys regularly for damage and other hazards.
  • Be involved in your child's play.
  • Store toys intended for older children separately from toys used by younger children.
  • Use a small-parts tester to find which small toys or parts are choking hazards to children under age 3. If an object fits into the tester, it is unsafe. If you do not own a small-parts tester, use the cardboard tube from inside a roll of paper towels or bathroom tissue; if an object is able to fit inside the tube, it is a choking hazard and not suitable for young children.
  • Make sure toys are used in safe environments. Keep riding toys away from stairs and bodies of water.
  • Children should always wear helmets when roller skating or using ride-on toys such as bicycles, tricycles, scooters and skateboards.
  • Throw away packing materials from new toys right away. Plastic bags, foam peanuts, staples, nails and wire ties are all safety hazards.

Stay up to date on toy recalls through the US Consumer Product Safety Commission or through the government's online recall page. Supervising your child's play, in addition to following the recommendations made by toy manufacturers, could save lives.

Last Updated 04/2015