Expectant parents are bombarded with information about keeping newborns healthy, happy, and safe. It can amount to an overwhelming list of things to worry about. We offer this guide to choosing safe baby toys to remind parents about some common concerns.
There has been a lot of attention given to the dangers of some plastic materials. Labels will say what’s not in a plastic toy or pacifier, but sometimes they don’t say what is in them. Child safety and environmental organizations maintain lists rating toys based on the presence of harmful chemicals and toxins like phthalates, lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. Some parents have abandoned plastics altogether, opting for baby-safe wood toys that use non-toxic waxes. Food-grade silicone is another option.
Labels should also identify age appropriateness and whether the toy has been passed by a recognized standards organization that certifies if a toy meets their safety requirements. Beware of hand-me-down toys, made in an era of little or no regulation, or from times when we simply didn’t understand the dangers of some of the chemicals that went into them. They also tend to be more fragile, may fly apart more easily, or allow the baby to pull them apart.
Beware of Small or Loose Parts
Every guide to choosing safe baby toys warns against small magnets, batteries, or glued-on plastic parts that can tear off, as these are choking hazards. If a battery or magnet makes it into an infant’s esophagus or stomach, it creates a life-threatening situation and a need for an immediate trip to the emergency department. Ensure you never have to face this terrifying situation by choosing toys that do not use these small parts.
Make sure the toy is well made, so babies can’t pull it apart or tear off buttons, eyes, or pom-poms. Every part of a baby toy should be bigger than a baby’s mouth. One test is whether the toy or part fits inside the cardboard tube of a toilet roll. If it does, it’s too small. Luxury baby toys should be made of non-toxic materials with no small attached parts that a baby could pull off. Your little kitten should not be able to tear or shred her little kitten.
Keep It Soft and Clean
Stay away from toys with hard edges or plastic that could snap off and cause cuts and scratches. Toys shouldn’t have wires that could become exposed or pointy parts that could poke a baby’s eyes or body.
Toys should be easy to clean. Babies will try to put toys in their mouths even if they don’t fit, and toys can pick up bits of baby’s breakfast, fuzz from the carpet or blanket, and sticky messes from spills. Toys should be washable and made of naturally germ-resistant materials, if possible.
Watch Out for Noise
Loud or shrill sounds can damage a newborn’s hearing. Avoid toys that make loud noises – they are more painful than they are entertaining.