At this age, kids are developing their fine and gross motor skills and language and cognitive skills. They enjoy toys that encourage role-play, such as a toy washer or play kitchen.
Look for learning toys that don’t have small parts that could be choking hazards, and make sure all seams and edges are secure.
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1. Toys with small parts
When choosing toys, keep your child’s age in mind. This will help you avoid toys that may be dangerous or that she will simply outgrow. Also, pay attention to the manufacturer’s age and safety recommendations. Toys that contain small parts can present a choking hazard to young children. Small parts include removable pieces — like the squeakers in some squeeze toys or the eyes and noses on stuffed animals — that can be swallowed or lodged in the windpipe, ears, or nostrils. They can also include prongs, staples, or pins that stick out of broken toys and can puncture the skin. Loud noise-making toys like toy cap guns can reach hearing-damaging noise levels.
A choke tube can test small toys and parts for choking hazards. You can use an empty toilet paper roll or a piece of paper. If the toy or part fits inside, it is too small for a kid 3 or younger. You should also be on the lookout for button batteries and latex balloons. Both can pose a choking risk and lead to internal injuries or chemical burns.
If your child has an older brother or sister, be sure to store their toys out of reach of the youngest kids. Older siblings can also be tempted to play with toys that are meant for the younger ones and could end up getting hurt. Toys made of soft materials, such as fabric and stuffed toys, should be flame-resistant or flame-retardant and have labels to prove it. Household art materials such as crayons and paint should be marked ASTM D-4236 to indicate they’re safe for kids. You should also make sure your child’s riding toy has straps or a harness to prevent falls and head injuries.
2. Toys with magnets
Often found in children’s toys, magnets are small and powerful enough to cause serious injuries if swallowed. Children can choke on magnets that lodge in their throat or windpipe, and they can suffer intestinal perforation or other internal injuries if multiple magnets are swallowed.
Toys that contain loose magnets are particularly dangerous, as children may easily swallow them while playing with the toy. In addition, many products that have magnetic parts use neodymium magnets, which are stronger than regular magnets but more fragile. These magnets are commonly used in high-tech devices like MRI machines and wind turbines, but they can also be found in toys and desk toys for adults.
A new safety standard went into effect in 2022 to prevent these hazards, requiring that magnets be too large for children to swallow or have weaker magnetic fields. However, toy manufacturers are still putting loose magnets in products and selling them to children. These products are marketed to kids as educational and fun, but they should be kept away from young children, especially those with drooling mouths or a history of chronic respiratory illness.
Pediatricians East Portland recommends that you regularly inspect any toys that contain small strong magnets and ensure they’re tucked safely away in a closed container or inaccessible to young children. Make sure the packaging clearly states the age recommendations for the product, and always supervise children when they play with magnets.
To keep kids entertained and engaged, choose magnetic toys that are versatile and compatible with other toys they might already own. The award-winning Magna-Tiles set is a great choice, combining creativity and education with reusable, easy-to-clean tiles that snap together into geometric shapes. This educational toy helps children learn about geometry, science, and math.
3. Toys with batteries
During this age range, kids develop motor skills that allow them to play with toys more independently. They may also begin to imitate their parents or older siblings, which often involves a lot of pretend play. Look for toys that support these milestones, such as a playhouse or train track set.
At this age, many kids start to imagine that they are teachers, pilots, ballerinas, and more, so look for toys that support their creative and learning goals. For example, a toy tablet with educational games can boost math and verbal skills. But you want to avoid toys that give negative feedback, like beeping when children get an answer wrong.
This is also a good time to introduce toys that require more advanced motor skills, such as a push toy that requires hand-eye coordination and upper body strength. Kids can often master these toys with relative ease after some practice, so they’ll feel proud of themselves.
Keep in mind that even though toy manufacturers are required to have safety standards for battery compartments, these are often easy to open for young kids. It’s important to check the ratings on all toys, including those rated E – Everyone, for possible choking hazards and whether they have detachable pieces that could lodge in the windpipe or ears.
Button batteries, which are small coin-shaped lithium coin cell batteries found in watches, calculators, remote controls, and some toys, are particularly dangerous for children. They can cause serious tissue damage and even death within a couple of hours if swallowed. They are found in an increasing number of everyday objects and, if not secured properly, can be accessed by children.
4. Toys with cords or strings
Parents love to spoil their babies with toys, but some are dangerous. The toys may seem innocuous, but often they contain parts that are too small to be safe for infants and toddlers or are made from materials that can cause choking or strangulation. Almost 500 children a day are treated in emergency departments for toy-related injuries, and most of those kids are younger than five. Check toy labels and safety guidelines, and consider the child’s age, size, skills, and interest level before buying a new toy. Learn about first aid for choking and other emergencies so you can act quickly if necessary.
Look for toys with no loose parts that could be swallowed. Avoid toys that have marbles, coins or other objects that can lodge in the throat above the windpipe. Keep young children away from toys with long cords or strings, such as pull toys; balloons; and stuffed animal eyes, noses, and ears that can strangle. Also, avoid letting children play with brooms, toy guns, or anything else that shoots objects into the air — they can injure the eye.
Examine the toy’s battery compartment to make sure that it has screws that are hard to pry open and that the batteries are securely in place. Batteries in toys can leak and cause chemical burns. Keep the toy out of reach when not in use, and throw it away if it breaks or becomes worn. Check that riding toys, such as rocking horses and wagons, have straps to secure the child, and ensure that any electrical toys are designed with a low voltage and can’t cause shocks or burns. Make sure that buttons and magnetic parts on toys are securely fastened and never give children adult jewelry, which can lead to serious injury if the child chokes or swallows it.
5. Toys that shoot objects
Children of this age love to act out things they see during their day, such as shopping or putting the baby to bed. They also love to imagine they are someone else, like a teacher, fireman/woman, ballerina, or astronaut. When selecting toys for this age group, choose ones that will allow them to expand their imaginations and learn about their environment, such as interactive educational games or tablets with parent-approved apps. It’s also a good idea to avoid toys that shoot objects, which can badly injure a child’s eye.
Children can easily choke on small parts in toys, so it’s important to give a child one toy at a time and to always put the toy away after play. Many accidents occur when kids leave toys lying around, particularly in the case of tripping over them on stairs or other surfaces.
Toys made of thin or brittle plastic can break into pieces, which can be choking hazards, and some toys contain chemicals such as lead or phthalates, which are potentially harmful to children. Look for toys labeled phthalate-free and low in toxicity, and make sure any fabric toys are washable and flame-resistant/retardant. When purchasing art materials, such as crayons or paints, check that they are non-toxic and have the ACMI seal (Art and Creative Materials Institute). Avoid older toys, including hand-me-downs and toys from other countries, which may not meet U.S. safety standards. Also, be aware that some toys are recalled due to safety issues, so it’s important to stay up to date on current recalls. For more information on toy safety, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.