December 8, 2023

The best toys inspire children to create, imagine and solve problems! It’s also important to make sure the toys are safe. Blocks, dolls, action figures, toy cars and trucks, Thomas the Train, Fisher-Price Little People, puzzles, games and books are all great choices. At my house, we love Melissa & Doug and Hape toys.  

Kelly Bryan DO

Primary Care

This year, you might notice some throwbacks from your own childhood – Barbie and Ken are back but only for children aged 3 and older and Furby has been updated for children 6 and older. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super Mario and Transformers have returned! Age ranges vary for these action figures.

Here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and on how to buy toys that are fun, but also safe and good for their minds and bodies.   

  1. Think BIG. Make sure all toys and parts do not contain choking hazards for children younger than age 3. This is the age when most children outgrow the oral stage and stop putting everything into their mouths. An easy way to test choking hazards is to use an empty toilet paper tube. If the toy can slide through the tube, it’s too small for toddlers. For instance, Lego Duplo sets are larger and suitable for children as young as 1-and-a-half years old while Lego sets are geared toward ages 4 and up.  
  2. Choose the right toys for the right age. Age recommendations on toys are super helpful. First, recommendations can tell you if the toy is safe for your child’s age. Are there any choking hazards? Do they have long cords that can cause strangulation? Age recommendations also tell you if your child will be able to understand how to play with the toy and whether the toy matches their stage of development. You want children to be challenged but not frustrated.
  3. Read the label or Product Information. In addition to age ranges, Labels and product information let you know how to safely use the toy. For instance, your preschooler may need a little help figuring out how to play with a new toy.   
  4. Look out for toys with button or lithium coin batteries. These small, button-shaped batteries are shiny and attractive to babies and toddlers. If swallowed, they can cause serious injury or be life-threatening. The batteries can cause a chemical reaction that damages or burns through the esophagus. These batteries are often found in toys that light up, make noise and dolls that sing. They are also in everyday items like key fobs, remote controls, hearing aids, holiday ornaments, flameless candles and flashing shoes and clothing. The best advice is to choose toys and dolls that don’t light up, sing, talk or make noises. Parents will love these quiet toys too!
  5. Look for toys that are well made and nontoxic. Toys made from thin plastic may break easily into sharp pieces. Make sure the label says nontoxic as lead can be found in paint, metal and plastic parts of some toys and toy jewelry.

For families with children of different age ranges, pediatricians recommend storing toys with small parts safely and securely away from younger siblings. Let older kids know they can only play with these toys separately and away from little ones. Naptimes are great times for older kids to do arts and crafts and play with toys that have smaller parts.

Remember, playing isn’t just for kids!

Dr. Kelly Bryan is a pediatrician at the Mankato Clinic Children’s Health Center.