Safe Toys and Gifts Month: How to Shop Safely for Tiny Tots

As we head into the festive season, many of us will be starting to think about shopping for gifts and toys for those little ones in our lives. While this is such an exciting time, we need to stop and consider: Is this toy safe and age-appropriate?

In the UK, the month of December is known as Safe Toys and Gifts Month, in the hope that we can all enjoy the gift-giving experience safely. Unfortunately, every year in the UK over 35,000 children under 15 go to hospital after an accident involving a toy. The majority of these accidents happen to toddlers between one and three years old.

At Bella Baby, we think this time of the year is the perfect opportunity to re-cap on some basic safety advice when it comes to buying safe, appropriate toys and, most importantly, what to do if you should discover a potential hazard.

What are the Toy Safety Regulations in the UK?

The general safety requirements for children's toys in the UK state that all toys, including the chemicals they contain, must not jeopardise the safety or health of users or third parties when they are used as intended or in a foreseeable way, bearing in mind the behaviour of children. 

The ability of the users and, where appropriate, their supervisors must be taken into account. In particular, this applies to toys intended for use by children under 36 months or by other specified age groups. Information on hazards and risks involved in using the toy, and the ways of avoiding them, must be marked in English, in a visible, easily legible, understandable and accurate manner. 

The information must be preceded by the word “Warning” or “Warnings” and should be marked on the toy, a label affixed to the toy or the toy’s packaging and any accompanying instructions for use. 

However, although these laws are strictly in place, there are times when warning signs are simply ignored and toys are gifted to children when they are not age-appropriate. More recently, an investigation conducted by the Chartered Trading Standards (CTSI), The British Toy and Hobby Association, and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) found that Almost half of toys bought from third-party sellers through retail giants like Amazon are unsafe for children.

Therefore, it is recommended that customers should be cautious when buying toys from third-party websites online.

How to Identify Safe and Age-Appropriate Toys for Children

Toys are valuable tools for children’s development. As well as keeping them entertained, they also help children find out about the world, learn new skills and make friends. However, the importance of keeping children safe while they play can’t be overstated. 

All toys in the UK come with either age recommendations or age warnings, which will be based on safety considerations. However, the purpose of age recommendations and age warnings are completely different. Age recommendations show what age the product is suitable for, whereas age warnings show the age the product is not suitable for.

Age Recommendations For Children’s Toys

The companies who create toys develop them for particular age groups based on the development stage and ability of the children, and they have various sources of information that allow them to determine which age grading is suitable for their product. These age recommendations are there to assist consumers in purchasing a toy that is suitable for the age of the child. However, age recommendations are not an exact science because children develop at very different rates.

When it comes to buying toys for babies and children, it's essential to check the age recommendations before buying. Furthermore, make sure the toy is suited to the intended child’s physical ability and maturity. It can be tempting to buy a bicycle or something similar one size too big to save having to buy one the following year, but this can be very dangerous. The child could end up hurting themselves if they don't have the physical skills to safely control the bigger bike. 

Age Warnings For Children’s Toys

Age warnings on children's toys are there to tell a consumer which ages the product is not suitable for. The above symbol is usually what you will find on a toy that is unsuitable for a child, however, it should be accompanied by specific warnings, for example, ‘Small parts, choking hazard’.

When it comes to buying toys that have these warnings it’s important that you abide by them. These warnings are purposely implemented to safeguard children from potential hazards that could be life-threatening. Where a toy is marked ‘not suitable for children under 36 months – choking hazard’, it is because the toy has small parts which could become detached and might be a choking risk. Toys marked ‘recommended for ages 5-8’ are discretionary guidelines.

Things to Consider When Buying Safe & Age-Appropriate Toys for Children

If you are planning on buying some toys for those tiny tots in your life, there are a few things you must consider alongside the age recommendations and age warnings mentioned above. First of all, you should consider the toy quality and check to see if it's been made well. Make sure there are no loose parts, sharp edges or anything else that could be a potential hazard.

Moreover, we recommend only purchasing toys that have the official CE mark, as this means the toy has been made to European safety standards which will remain in force until at least January 2022.

Furthermore, a lion symbol in a triangle means that the British Toy & Hobby Association has passed the toy as safe.

Another thing to consider is if the child will need to be supervised closely when playing. If this is the case, then the toy in question is probably unsuitable. It is best to always supervise young children and their play areas, but some toys may need more supervision than others. With more modern toys, things like batteries and cords can also be potential hazards. If you are replacing worn-out batteries, we recommend replacing the whole set, as not doing so can lead to the risk of overheating and leaking, and always monitor your child if they are near a plug socket or any other outlet. 

Finally, the toy size, weight and contents should all be considered before purchasing. When buying toys for younger children, especially those under three years old, take caution when it comes to the size of the toy. Small parts can be consumed by children, which can result in choking and suffocation. The weight of the toy is also important because if it is too heavy it could hurt a child if it falls on them. 

What To Do If a Child Is Injured By a Toy

If you suspect that your child or a child you are supervising has been injured by a toy, seek medical attention, even if it is not life-threatening. If the injury is not severe, visit your local walk-in centre or accident and emergency room, but if it is life-threatening call 999 immediately. 

Finally, if your child has been injured due to a defect with a toy, we recommend that you take several pictures of your child's injuries once they have been taken care of. Over the following days and weeks, continue to document your child's injuries, because if you decide to file a claim against the toy manufacturer, documentation will help you show the court how the toy's defect has impacted your child's life.