Giving a gift to a special kid in your life can be very exciting! You head to the store looking for the perfect present, but how do you know which toys are safest for your little one? There are different labels and accreditations on children’s toys, but which ones should you pay the most attention to? A Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group family medicine physician offers her best advice.
How can you tell which toys are safest for children?
When shopping for young children’s toys, there are certain labels and accreditations to be on the lookout for. Any toys made of fabric should be flame resistant or flame retardant. It’s also valuable to make sure fabric toys like stuffed animals are washable. Check the labels of art materials for the term "non-toxic" and paints for the phrase "lead-free.” Electric toys should be deemed UL Approved, meaning the Underwriters Laboratories back it.
Dr. Suhani Bhakta, family medicine physician at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group in Lake Jackson, shares what credentials to be on the watch for.
“Certain labels to look for when buying toys include labels that have ‘non-toxic’ on them. Arts and crafts supplies, such as paints or crayons, should say ‘ASTM D-4236’ on the package.”
What kind of toys should you avoid giving children?
For children of any age, the most common hazard when playing with toys is choking. Children under three, especially, tend to stick whatever they can in their mouths. Examples of this include small objects like marbles, magnets, or other small pieces that come off of larger toys. It’s also important to avoid toys with sharp edges and points to avoid scrapes and cuts. If gifting to an infant or toddler, ensure the toy is unbreakable and can withstand chewing. Lastly, if a toy is battery-operated, you should secure the battery cases, and children should not be able to easily take the screws out.
Dr. Bhakta offers another consideration.
“Adults should avoid gifting young children toys with screens. Too much screen time can interfere with young children that are still developing their social, language, motor, and cognitive skills. Kids under 18 months should have no screen time, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
The best toys for children of each age group
It’s important to find good toys that match the kid’s stage of life. Remember, each child develops at an individual pace, so while these toys are listed based on age, find the one that best suits your child's development.
Gifts for infants
- Birth to 6 months
- Objects they can reach for. Anything they can reach for, hold, suck on, shake, or make noise with, like rattles, large rings, teething toys, and textured balls.
- Objects they can listen to. Books with poems and nursery rhymes for someone to read to them or recordings of simple songs.
- Objects they can look at. Search for unbreakable mirrors they can glance at themselves with and pictures of animals, objects, or family members.
- 7 months to 12 month
- Objects to pretend with. Examples would be puppets, dolls, toy cars, or water toys.
- Objects to build with. Purchase large, soft blocks to prevent the child from choking.
- Objects to strengthen their large muscles with. Help the kid develop strength and motor skills by gifting them large balls, push and pull toys, and soft things to crawl over.
- 1 year old
- Objects to create with. Paper, non-toxic markers, and crayons are simple gifts to teach kids about creating and developing their imagination.
- Objects to pretend with. Toy phones, dolls with clothes and/or furniture, and dress-up accessories allow young children to create their own world.
- Objects to strengthen their large and small muscles. Consider gifting puzzles, large pegboards, or toys that have things like dials and knobs
Toys for toddlers
- Objects with problems to solve.
- Objects to pretend and build with. Examples include child-sized furniture, dress-up clothes, and sand and water toys.
- Objects to watch and listen to. Gift toddlers items they can sit with and soak in new sounds and words.
Presents for preschoolers
- Objects they can read. Consider gifting picture books with more words and less detailed pictures.
- Objects that strengthen their large and small muscles. Large and small balls for kicking or throwing, equipment they can ride on (like a tricycle), and small climbing playsets are great gifts for children of this age.
- Objects they can interact with. If the kid has access to a computer, interactive programs where they can control the path of the game are a good way for them to explore
When shopping for the children in your life, some of the goals to consider might include helping them learn and grow, allowing them to try something new, and, most of all, making them happy. Each kid is different and has their own interests, but it’s essential to make sure the toys you gift them are safe.
Dr. Bhakta shares what she’s planning to give the children in her life.
“With the holidays coming up, I am purchasing a bicycle and a helmet for my 8-year old niece and large building blocks for my 1-year old nephew.”
All of these guidelines are a lot to keep in mind, but we know you will find the perfect gift for your little one! Reach out to a Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Group family medicine physician via a virtual or in-person visit if you have any more questions. And if an emergency arises while your child is playing with their toys, call 911 and do not hesitate to bring them into the emergency room. Happy shopping