According to statistics, Canadian consumers purchase over a billion dollars a year on toys. In Canada, responsibility for toy safety is shared among governments, the toy industry, safety associations, parents and caregivers. Any toy advertised, sold or imported in Canada must meet the safety requirements defined in the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and the Toys Regulations.
Toy makers must make sure their toys meet these regulations, and Health Canada's product safety officers regularly check stores for unsafe toys but it is important to know that sometimes, unsafe toys do make their way onto store shelves and into our homes.
Injuries can happen despite your best efforts to choose the safest toy for your child. Older toys may not be safe anymore, or the way some toys are used may expose children to hazards. Choosing toys carefully will assure that playtime with your children can be fun, educational, and most importantly, safe. By using the checklist below, you can prevent toy-related injuries.
- Buy only toys suitable for the child's age group and abilities. Read the manufacturer's 'recommended age' label on the toy. Toys for older children are not safe for younger children.
- Look for warnings or other safety messages on the toy packaging, i.e. how to use the toy, what is the appropriate age level for the toy, and if adult supervision is recommended when your child is playing with the toy.
- Be realistic about your child's abilities and level of maturity when choosing an age-appropriate toy. Projectiles, missiles, and similar toys can be turned into weapons and can injure your children – especially their eyes.
- Plug-in electrical toys should be labelled by a safety-testing agency, i.e. Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
- Avoid toys with sharp points, edges and breakable and glass parts that can cause cuts or abrasions. As well, avoid toys that have exposed wires and parts that get hot, contain lead paint or other toxic materials, have springs, gears or hinged parts that could pinch tiny fingers or become caught in your child's hair.
- Check rigid eyes and noses on soft toys; make sure they cannot be pulled off. Squeeze toys for loose or removable squeakers. These items present a choking hazard to young childrens.
- Examine wheels on toy cars and trucks to make sure small parts cannot be pulled off or apart.
- Make sure small parts of larger toys cannot break off.
- Toys with long or stretchy cords can become wrapped around a child's neck presenting a strangulation hazard.
- Children's ears are very sensitive and their hearing is easily damaged. Loud, musical toys can damage a child's hearing if used for an extended period of time.
- Ride-on toys can tip. Children on ride-on toys can move very quickly, running into objects or falling down stairs.
- Swallowed magnet toys like 'Buckyballs' can cause serious injury or death. Small powerful magnets used in toys may pose a hazard if the item containing the magnet, or the magnet itself, is small enough to be swallowed.
- Before purchasing a rattle or teether for a baby, make sure it is large enough that it can't enter your baby's mouth.
- Avoid toys for the tub and pool that have tall, pointed parts that could hurt a child should they fall on them.
- Examine homemade toys for all of the same hazards listed above.
- Never purchase highly combustible toys or ones that use flammable liquids.
- Look for warnings or other safety messages on toy packaging.
- Read all instructions carefully that are included in the box and on the toy packaging and assemble according to manufacturer's instructions.
- Throw away all toy packaging such as plastic, cellophane, tape, ties, small packing pellets and styrofoam. These items present a suffocating and/or choking hazard. Staples on packaging can cause cuts.
- Always supervise your children when they are playing and teach them how to use toys safely. A child should not use a toy to harm another child or pet.
- Make sure that batteries in toys are installed properly. If batteries are installed incorrectly they can overheat and explode, and old batteries may leak battery acid, which can cause burns or poisoning. Small 'button' batteries can be swallowed and may cause choking and/or poisoning.
- Do not allow a child to sleep with a battery-operated toy.
- Supervise children playing with balloons. Latex balloons have caused a number of deaths wherein the balloon or a piece of broken balloon was inhaled and blocked a child's airway.
- Remove toys and mobiles strung across cribs and playpens when baby begins to push up with their hands and knees. These items can become a strangulation hazard.
- Use ride-on toys far away from stairs, traffic, swimming pools and other dangerous areas. Remove hazards like furniture, lamps, cords or appliances before play begins.
- Teach children to put their toys away. A toy designed for an older child should be stored far out of reach of a curious toddler. Small pieces or tiles belonging to board games should be put away as they pose a choking hazard.
- Examine toys regularly for signs of wear and tear. Keep broken toys out of reach until they can be repaired, and throw away broken toys that cannot be repaired.
- Store toys for older children separately from those for younger children.
- Use a toy box without a lid, or one with a lightweight lid that will not fall on a child. If the toy box has a lid, make sure the box has large air holes for breathing, in case a child climbs inside. Never use airtight storage bins for toys.
- Only adults should install batteries in toys. Improper installation, or mixing different battery types, can cause batteries to leak or overheat and could injure a child. Ensure that your children cannot open a toy's battery compartment. Do not let a child sleep with a battery-operated toy.
- Always keep uninflated latex balloons or broken balloon pieces out of reach of children. Latex balloons are best used for decoration - not play.
- Teach children of all ages that small magnets, and small items containing magnets, should never be placed in their mouths.
- Never place attractive or brightly coloured toys on high shelves; your child may be tempted to climb to reach it.
The KidsCare National Program is the product-safety related child injury prevention and information program of Health Canada. KidsCare reaches out to children, parents, caregivers, day care centres, and schools with useful information on consumer products, including toys. For more information on Product Safety or KidsCare contact your nearest Product Safety Office.
If you would like more information or if you think you have a toy that could be dangerous, contact your nearest Consumer Product Safety Office or call 1-866-662-0666, or for a list of consumer product recalls.
A portion of the information in this document was resourced from Health Canada. If you would like to read more information, please visit the following websites.
- Health Canada's Toy Safety Tips
- Health Canada's Toys and Toy boxes
- Health Canada's Is Your Child Safe web section
- Health Canada's Safety with Radar - Activity Book
- Health Canada's Consumer Product Safety web section
- Children's Safety Association of Canada's Toy Safety Checklist
- Canadian Toy Association Safety section
For safety information on food, health & consumer products click on Safe Consumers
For more articles on health and safety issues go to the It's Your Health web section
You can also call toll free at 1-866-225-0709 or TTY at 1-800-267-1245*