Cute multi-coloured toy giraffe

That stuffed bear might look cute, or your toddler might be throwing a tantrum for another plastic truck, but before you splash out or give in, check that what you’re buying really is safe for your infant or young child.

Here, we list important safety guidelines to follow when buying gifts for infants and toddlers this festive season and beyond.

1. Check age appropriateness

Check that the toy is age-appropriate for your child. Even if your child seems “advanced”, ensure that the toy you’re buying them in a different age group doesn’t pose a choking danger. Also, consider how your child plays. If your three-year-old still puts everything in their mouth, then avoid buying them toys with small pieces and parts, even if the box says “ages 3 and up”. As a rule, also avoid things like marbles and balls.

2. Watch sizing

The basic guideline is that toy parts should be bigger than a child’s mouth until they’re around three. To check if a toy presents a choking risk, put it through a toilet paper roll. If it’s too big to fit, then it’s safe for your child.

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3. Avoid broken or uninflated balloons

Keep your kids away from uninflated or torn balloons because of the risk of choking.

4. Avoid magnets

Stay clear of toys with magnetic pieces as these can be very harmful when swallowed.

5. Look for sturdy stuffed toys

Ensure that those cute stuffed bears and dolls are well made, with secured seams, eyes, noses and mouths and any other parts. Take off any ribbons or string that may cause strangulation or present a choking hazard.

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6. Read the labels

If you’re concerned about toxins, then check that the toy doesn’t contain things like phthalates, cadmium, lead, arsenic and mercury. Many toys are made using toxic materials because it’s cheaper, while certain chemicals also make toys more flexible and durable.

7. Choose decent plastic

When buying plastic, make sure they are sturdy and well made, with no rough or sharp edges. Avoid those that look fragile or flimsy as they can easily break and cause jagged edges.

8. Remove all plastic films and packaging

Remove all packaging from your kids’ toys, and if they’re prettily wrapped for Christmas, make sure you remove the ribbons or bows before they play with them.

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9. Watch for cords and strings

Avoid choosing toys with long strings or cords, as these can cause strangulation.

10. Choose weight-appropriate items

If your child can’t pick it up, or if you feel that the toy could cause harm if it falls on your child, then rather avoid it, and choose something lighter.

11. Check that the batteries are secure

There’s a reason why you need screwdrivers to insert batteries into kids’ toys – it’s to keep them out of sight and mind of little kids. If a toy doesn’t offer safe slots for batteries, rather move on and find another toy.

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