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What You Should Look For When Choosing Toys

Children today probably don’t have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads during the holidays. Instead, the latest, greatest must-have toy from countless advertisements is probably the focus of their dreams. However, parents should know what kinds of age-appropriate toys they should seek out.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is the go-to resource for many health care providers, including those at Banner Health. Among the recommendations on its Healthy Children website, AAP provides the following 10 tips on how to choose safe toys.

Safe toy buying tips

When shopping for toys for your younger children:

  1. Read the label. Take a few minutes to read any safety warnings on the packaging. These warnings should include the appropriate age for the toy. Do not buy a toy “too old” for your child and be sure to show them how to use the toy before they being playing with it.
  2. Think large. Choking on small pieces is a serious concern. The AAP recommends finding toys larger than your child’s mouth to keep them from swallowing potentially harmful pieces.
  3. Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air. It seems obvious, but you need to be aware that these toys can cause serious eye injuries.
  4. Avoid toys that are loud. Not just for your own sanity, but toys that produce loud noises can damage your child’s hearing. It’s best to play it safe and protect your child’s hearing.
  5. Look for stuffed toys that are well made. You want nice tight seams and no loose parts. Also, make sure to remove loose ribbons or strings that can choke your child. You should avoid toys that have the small plastic pellets in them, because they can choke your child if they leak out. And, find machine washable stuffed toys. You’ll thank us later.
  6. Buy plastic toys that are sturdy. Plastic toys can break. Thinner plastic can break more easily and can create sharp edges.
  7. Avoid toys with toxic materials. Kids put things in their mouths, and you really don’t want to risk poisoning with something that has toxins in it. Find nontoxic toys.
  8. Avoid hobby kits and chemistry sets for any child younger than 12 years. Younger kids may not be capable of necessary safety with these types of kits. Avoid the mad scientist moments, and avoid giving them to younger children.
  9. Electric toys should be “UL Approved.” For safety, make sure electric toys have the UL Approved logo on it. UL stands for Underwriters Laboratories, a product safety testing company.
  10. Be careful when buying crib toys. If you’re looking for crib toys, you’ll need to avoid anything that can increase the risk of suffocation, entrapment or strangulation. This includes soft objects and loose bedding. And, those mobiles? They have to be kept out of reach of your child and removed as soon as they are pushing up on their hands or no later than 5 months of age.

Age appropriate toys

If you’re shopping for toys  for children of family or friends and find yourself wondering what types of toys might be appropriate for children by age group, the following information comes from Banner Health’s pediatric experts. These are general guidelines, and our child life specialists would add that, if the toy encourages interaction and play, invites learning and discovery, and meets the above safety guidelines, you are on the right track.


  • Teething toys
  • Musical toys
  • Rattles
  • Mobiles (with the AAP recommendations above considered)
  • Infant clothing
  • Activity gym
  • High-contrast image books


  • Pop-up books
  • Light-up toys
  • Blocks
  • Learning toys
  • Play kitchen items

School Age

  • Toy cars
  • Board games
  • Arts & crafts
  • Building block sets


  • Video games or handheld games
  • Journals
  • Gift cards
  • Model car kits
  • Jewelry
  • Movies
  • Audio books

When shopping for toys for children in your family, take the time to read the packaging to make sure it’s safe and appropriate for their age. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to call your child’s pediatrician’s office to get their perspective.

Parenting Children's Health Safety
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