Toy Safety Tips

For 28 years, MASSPIRG Foundation has worked to identify unsafe toys. Below are our top tips to help you choose the safest toys for the children in your life.

For 28 years, MASSPIRG Foundation has worked to identify unsafe toys. Below are our top tips to help you choose the safest toys for the children in your life.

Bigger is better.

Don’t buy small toys or toys with small parts for children younger than 3 years. If a toy or part of a toy can pass through a toilet paper tube, don’t buy it for a child under 3, or any child who still puts things in his or her mouth.

Never give young children small balls or balloons.

Avoid balls and other spherical toys smaller than 1.75 inches in diameter (a little bit larger than a golf ball ) for children under 6. Small balls, balloons and pieces of broken balloons are particularly dangerous, as they can completely block a child’s airway. Never give latex balls to children younger than 8 years old.

Read and heed warning labels.

Toys with small parts intended for children between ages 3 and 6 are required by law to include an explicit choking hazard warning. Read the labels of play cosmetics and avoid products containing xylene, toluene, or dibutyl phthalate.

Avoid toys that contain PVC plastics.

Avoid toys made of PVC plastic; the toxic phthalates these plastics can contain pose developmental hazards for children.

Test toys, vinyl products, and costume jewelry for lead.

Despite its known hazards, lead-based paints are often still used on toys and high levels of lead can be found in vinyl lunch boxes and bibs, and in children’s costume jewelry. All lead should be removed from a child’s environment, especially lead jewelry and other toys that can be swallowed. Use a home lead tester, such as those found at most local hardware stores, to help identify toys and costume jewelry containing this heavy metal.

Avoid toys containing powerful magnets.

The powerful, small magnets used in most magnetic building toys, toy darts, magnetic jewelry, and other toys can fall out of small toys and look like shiny candy. If a child swallows more than one magnet, the magnets can attract each other in the body and cause life-threatening complications. If a child swallows even one magnet, seek immediate medical attention.

Watch out for watch or “button” batteries.

Keep watch or “button” batteries away from children. If swallowed, the battery acid can cause fatal internal injuries.

If it sounds too loud, it is.

Children’s ears are sensitive. If a toy seems too loud for your ears, it is probably too loud for a child.

Watch out for strings and cords.

  • Keep mobiles out of the reach of children in cribs and remove them before the baby is five months old or can push themselves up.
  • Remove knobs and beads from cords longer than one foot to prevent the cords from tangling into a dangerous loop.
  • Clothing with drawstrings on the hood can get caught on fixed objects like playground equipment and pose a strangulation hazard.

Outfit your kids for safety.

Toys such as bicycles, scooters, skateboards and inline skates are safer when children wear protective gear. If you plan to give any of these toys as gifts, make them safer by also giving a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards.

Stay informed of recalls.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalls numerous toys and children’s products each year. Check for an archive of old recalls and to sign up to receive email alerts of new recalls.

Report dangerous toys.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has the authority to recall dangerous toys and products from the market. If you think a toy or product is hazardous, contact the CPSC and submit a report by:

Now, test your knowledge with our toy safety quiz.


Deirdre Cummings

Legislative Director, MASSPIRG

Deirdre runs MASSPIRG’s public health, consumer protection and tax and budget programs. Deirdre has led campaigns to improve public records law and require all state spending to be transparent and available on an easy-to-use website, close $400 million in corporate tax loopholes, protect the state’s retail sales laws to reduce overcharges and preserve price disclosures, reduce costs of health insurance and prescription drugs, and more. Deirdre also oversees a Consumer Action Center in Weymouth, Mass., which has mediated 17,000 complaints and returned $4 million to Massachusetts consumers since 1989. Deirdre currently resides in Maynard, Mass., with her family. Over the years she has visited all but one of the state's 351 towns — Gosnold.