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Toy Safety Guide – S1 E23

The gift-giving season is here! For little ones, receiving a new toy is exciting. But it’s up to us parents to make sure that our children are playing with toys that are safe. That involves reviewing age recommendations, keeping small parts out of reach, and storing “big kid” toys safely away from toddlers and infants.

Emily Samuel of Safe Kids Worldwide joins host Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez to walk parents through a toy safety checklist. Find out what to look out for when in the toy aisle, and how to ensure that playtime with toys is both fun and safe.

Podcast Resources:
Parent's Guide to Child Safety
Safe Kids Family Safety Activity Book
Button Battery Tip Card
Guest: Emily Samuel
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

host Guest: Emily Samuel, Program Director, Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization founded by Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.


Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Parenting Brief. I’m Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and Program Director for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services. If you’re searching for tips on safe sleep, have questions about breastfeeding, or want to develop literacy skills for your toddler,

you’ve come to the right place. From pregnancy, to infancy, to the preschool years, we cover everything you need to know to help you become the best parent you can be.

We’re so glad you’re here for this episode of The Parenting Brief. The gift-giving season is here! And it’s always fun to shop for our kiddos or find gifts for nieces, nephews, and grandkids. As we search for the best toys for infants and toddlers, [00:01:00] it’s important to keep both fun and safety in mind. Let’s face it, infants and toddlers will put nearly anything in their mouth.

And as soon as you look away, whatever they’re near is fair game to them. That’s why today we’re talking about toy safety. From recalls, to batteries, to toy storage, we have you covered.

Joining me today is Emily Samuel. Emily is a Program Director at Safe Kids worldwide. Her expertise is global home safety programs, so we couldn’t think of a better person to have this conversation with today. Thank you so much for joining us, Emily.

Emily Samuel: Thank you for having me, Jessica.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So let’s first start with a general safety checklist. When a parent buys a toy, or if their child receives a toy as a gift, what safety risks should they look for before their child plays with it?

Emily Samuel: So there’s three things that parents can keep in [00:02:00] mind as they’re selecting a toy for their child. The first is to consider your child’s age and development when purchasing a toy or a game. So read the instructions and warning labels to make sure it’s just right for your child. Two is to remember to separate toys by age and keep small parts and game pieces out of reach of young children.

Toys intended for older children may pose a risk to younger, curious siblings. So remind older siblings to put away toys with small pieces after they’re done playing with them. The third is to stay up to date on toy recalls and you can visit recalls for more information about that or the CPSC website.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So you had mentioned that difference in siblings and ages. And we know that a lot of families in Arizona with children have, or plan to have more than one child. So while we know that with that comes all of the fun things of teaching siblings, how to share. It also means that there might be those toys, as you [00:03:00] talked about that are appropriate for an older child that aren’t safe or appropriate for a younger child.

So how do you recommend parents separate and store those toys so that the younger kiddos can’t get into the toys meant for those older siblings?

Emily Samuel: That’s a great question, Jessica, and it can be challenging for families, and it is very important to separate toys by age and have separate storage locations for toys and games that have smaller parts. And that can look different for different families.

So I have a few ideas for families to consider, and the first is having separate play areas for certain toys. So you might have a big sister or big brother play with toys that have small pieces in their bedroom. While younger children are playing in another area of the home, like the living room. And even if the kids are in separate play areas, remind older siblings to put away their toys and games that are not suited for younger siblings right after they’re done playing.

And it’s important to check the floor or areas within little sister or little brother’s reach when they’re putting away their toys. [00:04:00] But we also know that most little ones don’t always stay in one area of the home for too long. So families can also consider looking for opportunities to set up play time for older siblings with certain toys when babies and toddlers are napping.

So they have some uninterrupted time to play with those toys and games that are meant for older children. If you do have children of different ages in your home, it might also be helpful to separate toys into three. So maybe one toy bin with toys that are appropriate for younger children. One for the older siblings and a third bin with toys and games that all the children of different ages can play with together.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So we also know that there’s lots of benefits to toys and activities and one of those is the hope and desire that that specific toy might entertain our little one long enough for us to take a shower, start a load of laundry, prepared dinner, anything. Are there any toys that should only be used with adult supervision though?

How can parents determine [00:05:00] whether it’s okay for them to play alone? Or if that’s something that requires an adult to be present?

Emily Samuel: Yeah, that’s a hard question, but a really good one. And we know that every child is different in personality and the timing at which they reach different developmental milestones.

And there are different things that parents will need to consider when they make that decision for their family. For example, if a toy label indicates that a board game is recommended for children ages five and older, but your five-year-old tends to put things in his or her mouth and the game has smaller pieces,

it may be better to choose another toy or game for this year or this moment in time. We also know that kids are very creative and they can imagine a cardboard box into an airplane or a castle just as fast as they can find new uses for their toys, and it may not be how the toy was intended to be used.

So that will also be a consideration for caregivers as they make that decision around supervision.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: I think that’s a great point that even though it’s intended one way does not mean that’s how it’s [00:06:00] going to be played with.

Emily Samuel: Exactly. And we know that there are other toys that are more meant for adults. So they might be little office toys or little desk fidget toys, and those are intended for adults

so that’s something to keep in mind as well. You don’t want your younger children playing with those toys that are more meant for older children or adults as fidget toys.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So let’s talk about toy recalls. First, can you explain what a toy recall is and how parents can get alerted if a toy recall happens for an item they’ve purchased?

Emily Samuel: So toys that are designed and intended for children are held to a higher standard of safety and recalls serve as a layer of safety that helps remove products or toys from the market when a safety issue or product defect is identified. So sometimes a recall is requested by the toy manufacturer and sometimes toy recalls come from the consumer product safety [00:07:00] commission

when there are reports of safety concerns or injuries.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: And we can’t ignore that some toys are only fun because they are battery operated, but batteries can be a huge safety concern. What are the dangers and how can we make sure that battery powered toys can be safely used by our kids?

Emily Samuel: So that’s also a great question and those toys are definitely a lot of fun.

And I think the first step is going back to what we talked about a little bit earlier is to make sure that you’re reading the instructions, warning labels, and age recommendations on those toys and games that you’re purchasing. And another thing that parents may not know is that there are certain batteries that are really unsafe for children.

You know, little kids love to explore. And when they find something new, one of the first things they typically do is put in their mouth and sometimes they even take things apart. It’s just what they do and we love to see that because that’s a sign of them learning and they’re exploring their environment.

But we also know that small electronic devices [00:08:00] that may not be intended as toys such as mini remote controls, small calculators, key fobs, flameless candles, and even musical greeting cards contain very powerful coin-size lithium batteries. And those are often referred to as button batteries. And if swallowed these button batteries can get lodged in a child’s throat and cause severe chemical burns.

And the hard thing to note about that is that kids can usually still breathe, so they will likely not show signs of choking if they swallow this type of battery and it gets lodged in their throat. And symptoms may be similar to other illnesses such as coughing, drooling, or discomfort. And that can make it really hard to know if a child has swallowed a button battery or not.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Where can parents go to learn more about toy safety?

Families can also always find additional information on preventing injuries on our website at and we also have a parent’s guide to child safety available on our website as well. That goes through different areas of the [00:09:00] home and different safety topics for families to consider as their child grows and develops from little babies to older adults.

What incredible resources, thank you so much.

Emily Samuel: Thank you.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Want to learn more? Visit the episode show notes for more tips on toy safety. We have more episodes on the way, so make sure to follow The Parenting Brief on your favorite podcast app. You can also share the episode with the moms or expecting moms in your life. Until next time, this is Jessica. You’ve got this, Mom.

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