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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

3-6 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

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
  • 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

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
  • 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.

Ask your questions

We know parents have plenty of questions about what’s safe for their kids to play with and how to be on the lookout for any potential dangers. Ask the Toy Safety Mom, Joan Lawrence, your toy safety questions here, and read on for answers to FAQs Joan has received from caregivers like you. Hopefully these will help you better understand some of today’s safety issues and put your mind at ease.
Toy FAQs

Toymakers have to meet several requirements designed specifically to ensure the safety of plush or stuffed toys. These requirements cover a number of issues, including material cleanliness and quality, seam strength, and small parts.

To answer your specific concerns: yes, polyester fiber is safe to use in stuffed toys for all ages. Polyethylene and PVC pellets are also among the acceptable types of stuffing for use in toys, as long as the toy meets all applicable safety standards. Plastic pellets are considered small parts and may present an ingestion or inhalation hazard for children under three years of age if they become accessible — which is why a seam strength test is required. In fact, most manufacturers that use these pellets take the additional step of enclosing them in a second inner bag inside the toy. PVC needs to be free of certain phthalates, but the toy industry has been using non-phthalate alternatives for years.

I’m so glad you asked this, and the answer is an easy one—other than toys specifically intended to attach to the crib, like mobiles, music boxes, etc., it’s not safe to keep any toys, blankets, or other objects in the crib when your child is sleeping. If your baby rolls over and presses his/her face against these things, they could potentially block your child’s breathing. Let infants enjoy their playthings during waking hours and keep the crib clear of toys when they nod off to sleep.

You’re absolutely right—small toy parts and other small objects found around the home can be a hazard to children under 3 and those who still tend to put objects in their mouths.

More than 40 years ago, toymakers collaborated with pediatricians, child development experts, government officials, and others to develop small parts safety regulations for toys. Those regulations define "small parts" as those that fit entirely within a Small Parts Tester, which features a cylinder that emulates the size and shape of a child’s throat—2.25 inches long by 1.25 inches wide.

Magnets can be a fun and educational feature in a toy. However, certain small, powerful magnets (known as "rare earth magnets") can pose a serious risk to children if they’re swallowed. There are strict federal standards in place to make sure that these magnets aren’t used in small toy parts that could be accessible to young kids. But other household products don’t have the same safety features as toys, and may contain small, powerful magnets. Lots of children (especially those under 3) have a tendency to put small objects—like magnets—into their mouths and noses. If they swallow or inhale a magnet, it can create a choking or breathing hazard. If they swallow or inhale multiple magnets, the magnetic attraction between them can lead to internal injuries—or worse.

My advice: make sure to keep these small, powerful magnets out of your child’s reach, and teach them to never put magnets in or near their mouths and noses. If your child does swallow a magnet, seek medical attention immediately.

That's a common—and important—question. Selecting a toy that matches your child’s age is a critical first step to ensuring safe play. Sometimes I hear parents say that because their child is extremely smart or advanced, they (or proud aunts, uncles, and grandparents!) buy toys for them that are meant for older kids. It’s important to understand that age-grading’s primary purpose is to serve as safety guidance, based on various developmental skills and abilities at a given age, and should always be followed.

Plus, picking a toy that matches your child's age helps them become more engaged in play. Sometimes, kids who are frustrated—because a toy is either too complex or too simple for them—come up with unintended uses for the toy, which can lead to unsafe play. Age guidance is a useful tool for finding playthings that are just right (and safe!) for your child.

 
Meet the Toy Safety Mom

Joan Lawrence

Toy Safety Mom | Senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs at The Toy Association

Joan is a lifelong child safety advocate with more than 20 years of experience in the toy industry.

As The Toy Association’s senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs, Joan manages the organization's product safety programs, including the development of safety standards and efforts to educate families about toy safety. She works with government officials, medical experts, consumer groups, and toy companies to strengthen toy safety in the U.S. and around the world.

Joan is the daughter of a prominent pediatrician, and a mom to three children.

About Us

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.