As Christmas approaches, children will be gleefully looking forward to all the new toys in their stockings, with not a thought, of course, about how safe – or unsafe – they might be.
Checking a toy’s safety is a parent’s job, and that’s not just for new toys either. Many children have cupboards full of toys, some of them dating back years, and, particularly for young children, regularly checking toys are safe and without loose parts could actually make a life or death difference.
“Give existing toys a safety once-over,” advises Katrina Phillips, chief executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT capt.org.uk). “Check there are no loose parts or wires and that button batteries are secured out of reach of little fingers.”
2-year-old Rebecca swallowed 14 super-strong magnets from her big brother’s toy.
Her mum bought the toy online and didn’t know it was dangerous.
A new report reveals how an alarming number of unsafe toys are now sold online. https://t.co/NfI0xXFpho @CrookesDerek #toysafety pic.twitter.com/UWkfNqTeOZ
— CAPT (@CAPTcharity) October 5, 2021
And as for new toys bought for Christmas, Phillips stresses: “You can no longer assume that, just because you can buy a toy, it must be safe.
“It’s a frightening fact that cheap toys sold on online marketplaces can pose serious dangers to children. So take care if you’re shopping on online platforms, avoid cheap copycat toys, and opt for brand names you know.”
The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA btha.co.uk), which helps promote toy safety, stresses that toys are strictly legislated, and reputable toy companies ensure they make toys to the high standards required by law.
Here is advice from experts on how to ensure your child’s toys are safe…
1. Be careful when buying from online platforms
Not everything online platforms sell is supplied by them, warns CAPT, which says the platforms don’t have to check if toys from other sellers are safe.
And BTHA spokesperson Kerri Atherton warns: “The BTHA has become increasingly concerned about the sale of unsafe toys by third-party sellers via online marketplaces, after our recent study found nearly half the toys tested were unsafe and failed to meet essential toy safety requirements.
“Consumers should take extra caution when purchasing toys online to know who they’re buying from.”
2. Compare sellers
Bargains may be too good to be true, warns the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), which suggests people buying toys should compare the price with other sellers and warns that if it’s a great deal cheaper, it’s likely to be counterfeit.
3. Check online sellers
If a toy is sold by a company you’ve never heard of that doesn’t have a UK or EU address, and the price is low, be aware that it may be illegal and unsafe, warns CAPT.
The organisation says unsafe, illegal toys can include those with super-strong magnets that can rip through a child’s belly if swallowed, toys with accessible button batteries that can burn through a child’s food pipe if swallowed, toys with long cords, ribbons or cables that can strangle children, and cheap electrical toys with chargers that can catch fire or wires that can cause electric shocks.
“Look for UK companies who comply with UK toy safety standards, as marketplaces aren’t responsible for safety testing,” says Phillips.
4. Check age and safety warnings on new and old toys
Know who you are buying from. Get as much information on the seller as you can, especially if you’re buying from an online marketplace. Not everything sold on an online platform is supplied by them . #SafeToys2021. pic.twitter.com/J05lEqX6ws
— Office for Product Safety and Standards (@OfficeforSandS) November 15, 2021
Check the safety and age warnings on toys and make sure the toy is appropriate for the age of your child, says CAPT.
5. Check toys have approved safety marks
Look out for the CE mark or Lion Mark – these show a toy has been made to approved safety standards, explains CAPT. The UKCA mark also shows a toy conforms to UK law.
6. Don’t just assume old toys remain safe
Check well-loved toys have no loose parts or loose stuffing or filling that may be swallowed, advises CAPT.
7. Check for loose wires
CAPT says it’s also important to look out for any loose wires or button battery compartments that are not secured.
8. Beware of sharp plastic on old toys
Old toys have usually been through the wars and could become unsafe as a result, and Phillips suggests: “Watch out for very old toys where the plastic has become flimsy and is likely to break, creating sharp points.”