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Play Safe is the premier site for your information about toy safety. Brought to you by The Toy Association, Inc. 

Tips for keeping
playtime fun and safe

Whether children are playing indoors or outdoors, enjoying their favorite toys or picking out new ones, you want to make sure they stay safe while they play. Check out these tips from the experts at The Toy Association to help your family avoid any playtime mishaps.

Age-by-age toy buying guide

Based on child development research, this guide will help you pick out appropriate playthings for your kids at every age and stage of childhood! Some toys are recommended for more than one age category, since kids of different ages often enjoy the same toy, each playing with it at his or her own level.

Birth to six months

Abilities and interests

Babies rely on sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell to learn about their new world. To delight their senses and encourage their exploration, look for toys that make noise or feature high-contrast, black-and-white, or brightly colored images. Textured toys that are safe for mouthing are great for infants who can reach for objects.

Toy Suggestions
  • Crib gyms**
  • Floor gyms
  • Activity quilts*
  • Mobiles**
  • Safety mirrors
  • Teething toys
  • Large, interlocking rings or keys.
  • Cloth toys*
  • Soft dolls*
  • Stuffed animals (with short pile fabric)*
  • Musical and chime toys
  • Rattles
* These items should never be left in the crib of a sleeping child.
** Remove these items when your baby is five months old or is able to push up on their hands and knees.

6 to 12 months

Abilities and interests

At this stage, infants begin to master motor skills that introduce them to new and exciting ways to play. When babies can sit up, they enjoy toys they can bang, drop, stack, put in and take out, and open and shut. When they graduate to crawling, cruising, or walking, they get a huge kick out of toys that can move along with them.

Toy Suggestions
  • Balls (1¾ inches and larger)
  • Push-pull toys
  • Ride-on toys (feet-propelled)
  • Wagons
  • Backyard gym equipment (infant swing, small slide, small climbing apparatus)
  • Nesting and stacking toys
  • Simple shape sorters
  • Pop-up toys
  • Puzzles with knobs (whole object pieces that fit into simple scenes)
  • Blocks
  • Sandbox/sand toys
  • Wading pool/water toys
  • Bath toys
  • Stuffed animals (with short pile fabric)
  • Dolls
  • Play vehicles
  • Toy kitchen equipment and gadgets
  • Play household items (telephone, lawn mower, workbench, shopping cart)
  • Playhouse
  • Child-sized table and chairs
  • Non-toxic art supplies (large crayons and coloring books, clay, finger-paints)
  • Musical instruments
  • Cardboard picture books, pop-up books

1 to 2 Years

Abilities and interests

By now, toddlers are full-fledged explorers. They need toys that inspire physical play – walking, climbing, pushing, and riding – and ones that encourage experimentation and manipulation. At this age, kids love props and role-play toys that let them imitate adults, as well as toys that allow for solitary play.

Toy Suggestions
  • Balls (1¾ inches and larger)
  • Push-pull toys
  • Ride-on toys (feet-propelled)
  • Wagons
  • Backyard gym equipment (infant swing, small slide, small climbing apparatus)
  • Nesting and stacking toys
  • Simple shape sorters
  • Pop-up toys
  • Puzzles with knobs (whole object pieces that fit into simple scenes)
  • Blocks
  • Sandbox/sand toys
  • Wading pool/water toys
  • Bath toys
  • Stuffed animals (with short pile fabric)
  • Dolls
  • Play vehicles
  • Toy kitchen equipment and gadgets
  • Play household items (telephone, lawn mower, workbench, shopping cart)
  • Playhouse
  • Child-sized table and chairs
  • Non-toxic art supplies (large crayons and coloring books, clay, finger-paints)
  • Musical instruments

2 to 3 Years

Abilities and interests

Older toddlers love testing their physical skills, so find playthings that get them jumping, climbing, and throwing. This age group also has good hand-eye coordination and enjoys putting their fine motor skills to work with basic arts & crafts, puppets, blocks, and simple puzzles. Toys that encourage open-ended, imaginative play are also great for this age.

Toy Suggestions
  • Balls (1¾ inches and larger)
  • Building blocks and building systems
  • Blocks with letters and numbers
  • Puzzles with knobs (whole-object pieces that fit into simple scenes)
  • Dolls that can be bathed, fed and diapered
  • Dress-up clothes and accessories
  • Hand/finger puppets
  • Play scenes (e.g., farm, airport) with figures and accessories
  • Sandbox/sand toys
  • Tricycle and helmet
  • Play vehicles
  • Wagon
  • Shape sorters
  • Playhouse
  • Stuffed animals

3 to 6 Years

Abilities and interests

Children in this age group begin to actively play with each other. Preschoolers and kindergartners are masters of make-believe, so toys that inspire imaginative play are great at this stage. Arts & crafts are also popular, because they encourage hands-on exploration and creativity.

Toy Suggestions
  • Tricycle/bicycle and helmet
  • Construction toys
  • Lacing and threading sets
  • Puzzles (10-20 pieces)
  • Stuffed animals
  • Dolls and doll clothes
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Props for pretend play
  • Ride-on toys
  • Hand/finger puppets
  • Non-toxic art supplies (safety scissors, construction paper, crayons)
  • Simple board games; word and matching games

6 to 9 Years

Abilities and interests

School-age children enjoy play that requires strategy and skill. Board games, tabletop sports, and classic toys like marbles and kites are favorites. Grade-schoolers also enjoy exploring different kinds of grown-up worlds and like fashion and career dolls and action figures. Children this age seek out new information and experiences through play and enjoy science, craft, and magic kits. In addition, this age group possesses the physical skills and coordination to enjoy junior versions of adult sporting equipment.

Toy Suggestions
  • Bicycle and helmet
  • Simple swimming equipment
  • Ice/in-line skates and protective gear
  • Construction toys
  • Pogo sticks
  • Jump ropes
  • Action figures
  • Paper dolls
  • Model kits
  • Craft kits
  • Magic sets
  • Science sets
  • Tabletop sports
  • Electronic games
  • Fashion/career dolls
  • Doll houses and furnishings
  • Board games

9 to 12 Years

Abilities and interests

Preteens begin to develop hobbies and life-long interests and enjoy crafts, model kits, magic sets, advanced construction sets, science kits and sophisticated jigsaw puzzles. Active play finds its expression in team sports. Painting, sculpting, ceramics, and other art projects continue to be of interest.

Toy Suggestions
  • Sports/outdoor equipment and protective gear
  • Bicycle and helmet
  • Advanced construction sets
  • Jigsaw/3D puzzles
  • Remote-control vehicles
  • Model kits
  • Science kits
  • Magic sets
  • Arts & crafts kits
  • Strategy-based board games
  • Tabletop sports
  • Electronic games

What is a recall?

Toys are remarkably safe – all toys sold in the U.S. have to comply with tough federal safety standards.

Toy recalls are a rare but important part of the process of making sure your child's playthings are safe. Recalls are a sign that the safety system works – they're the "safety net" used to remove any faulty products from stores and people's homes.

We’ve gathered CPSC recall data for the past four years to help you check whether you need to take action on any recalled toys that may be in your home. For more information on recalls, visit www.recalls.gov.

Safe Online Shopping Tips

Buying toys at a mass retailer and your local community toy store is always a safe bet. If you enjoy the convenience of online shopping, be vigilant of counterfeit and imitation toys. Illicit sellers may dupe you into thinking you’re buying the real thing, or entice you with lower prices or the promise of getting the ‘hot toy’ of the holiday season. In fact, they are peddling fake products that oftentimes do not comply with product safety laws. Follow our tips to make sure the toys you are getting are legitimate – and therefore, safe:

  • Shop only from reputable brands and sellers. Their toys have been tested for compliance with over 100 different safety standards and tests required by law.
  • Make sure the brand you’re purchasing from has a professional-looking website. Can’t find a website? That may be a red flag that you are dealing with an illicit seller.
  • If a product’s reviews are negative, or if there aren’t many, it’s a clue the product could be a fake.
  • Poorly photoshopped pictures, typos, or spelling mistakes in the online description or packaging are other clues that the product could be illegitimate, and therefore unsafe.
  • Can’t find a toy on your child’s wish list? Wait for a trusted retailer to restock the product. Buying fake or cheaper alternatives is just not worth the risk.

You can view, download and share our infographic here!

About Us

The Toy Association

The Toy Association

Play is our business—and keeping kids safe while they play is the #1 priority for The Toy Association and its members. The Association has a long history of leadership in toy safety: the group helped develop the first comprehensive toy safety standard more than 40 years ago, and continues to work with government officials, consumer groups, and industry leaders on ongoing programs to ensure safe play.

Download our Counterfeit Tips infographic. Please share on social media!

Download our “Top Tips for Safe Play this Summer” infographic. Feel free to share on social media!

Download our 2019 “Fun Play, Safe Play” brochure. Easy to print, fold, and hand out to customers.