Toy Safety

Each year an estimated 3 billion toys and games are sold in the United States. Unfortunately, toys are associated with thousands of injuries each year, some of which result in death. Children younger than 3 years are especially at risk for injury from toys. Injuries can range from falling, choking, strangulation, burning, drowning and even poisoning.

Injury and death rates

  • In 2012, an estimated 265,000 children ages 14 and younger were treated at hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Nearly half of the children treated for these injuries were ages 4 and younger.
  • In 2012, there were 11 toy-related deaths among children ages 12 and younger reported in the U.S.

What's causing the injuries?

  • Riding toys, including non-powered scooters and tricycles, are associated with more injuries than any other toy group. 
  • Toy-related deaths are often caused by choking, drowning, motor vehicle incident or strangulation. Injuries often result when toys are misused or used by children who are too young.
  • Choking is the leading cause of injury among children ages 3 and younger, with coins and toys accounting for the most non-food-related choking incidents.
  • Among children’s products, latex balloons are the number one cause of choking deaths. A majority of these deaths is among children ages 5 and younger.

Protecting your child from toy injuries

The most important tip to protect your child from toy injuries is to always supervise him when playing with toys.

Below are some other things you can do to help prevent toy injuries.

To prevent choking:

  • Avoid letting your toddler (ages 3 and under) play with small toys and parts. Children in this age group still "mouth" objects, which can cause them to choke on small items.
  • Consider buying a small parts tester, or use a cardboard toilet paper roll, to test objects that may be a choking hazard. If the part fits into the roll, it could be a choking hazard for kids younger than 3 years old.
  • Make sure toys are sturdy and that no small parts (such as eyes, noses, buttons, or other parts) can break off.
  • Avoid latex balloons; use Mylar (foil) balloons instead.
  • Check under your furniture and between seat cushions for items that pose choking hazards.

To prevent falling or drowning:

  • Keep riding toys away from stairs, bodies of water and traffic.
  • Supervise your child while playing on a riding toy and make sure he/she fits properly on the toy.
  • Make sure your child wears a properly-fitting helmet and safety gear at all times while riding scooters, bikes and other riding toys.

To prevent suffocation and strangling:

  • Discard any plastic wrapping the toy came in.
  • Avoid toys with long cords. Strangulation may occur if a string, rope or cord from a toy gets tangled around a child’s neck. You should also remove hood and neck drawstrings from all children's outerwear and tie up all window blinds and drapery cords.

To prevent other injuries:

  • Use caution when children play with toys that shoot plastic objects or other flying pieces.
  • Do not allow children to play unattended with electric plug-in toys or hobby kits.  Burns and shocks may result from frayed cords, misuse or prolonged use.
  • Use caution with chemistry sets and other hobby kits that may contain toxic substances or materials that can catch fire and cause serious skin and eye injuries. These toys may also cause explosions or poisoning.
  • Avoid toys that create noise levels higher than 100 decibels. Snapping or machine-gun noises made by some toys can damage your child's hearing. Caps are also dangerous if used indoors or closer than 12 inches from your child's ear.
  • Be careful when playing near toy chests and other storage containers, which can pinch, bruise, or break tiny fingers and hands when a lid closes suddenly. Your child also can suffocate if trapped inside a toy chest.
  • Check toys regularly for damage and other hazards.

Age ratings on toys

Knowing what dangers are associated with certain toys and age groups can help you better protect your child from toy injuries.

Toy makers follow the guidelines established by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in determining the age grading of a toy. The CPSC now requires labeling on toys that are designed for children between the ages of 3 and 6 years that can pose a choking hazard for children younger than 3. The labels must specifically state that the toy is unsafe for children under age 3 and the reason for the warning.

The age recommendation on a toy reflects the safety of a toy based on four categories. These include:

  • The physical ability of the child to play with the toy
  • The mental ability of a child to know how to use the toy
  • The play needs and interests present at various levels of a child's development
  • The safety aspects of a particular toy

Visit the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for information on toy recalls and sign up for recall alerts.