Toy Safety: Toddlers (18 Months to 3 Years)

Toddlers are happy exploring and discovering at their own pace. Do not force your child into tightly structured kinds of play. Likewise, when introducing a new toy, let your toddler take his time getting used to it before you suggest a new game or activity.

Although your child may play near other children, do not expect your toddler to share and play cooperatively. Toddlers tend to be self-absorbed. If your child is playing among a group of children, provide plenty of play materials so cooperation does not become a problem. Your toddler may become quite attached to a favorite toy and carry it around just about everywhere.

Toddlers are avid explorers. They investigate everything with wide-eyed curiosity; they continually experiment to discover how a toy is made and what happens when it is thrown. For these reasons, toys for this stage of childhood should be especially able to withstand hearty play.

Toy Safety Checklist

  • The toy is sanitary.
  • The toy is washable.
  • The toy is not too heavy for your child's strength.
  • The toy is well-constructed. (A poorly made toy can break or come apart, easily exposing hazards like wires or springs.)
  • The toy does not have sharp edges that can cut or scratch.
  • There are no small parts or decorations that can get loose and be swallowed, inhaled, or stuffed into an ear. (Examples include the eyes on a stuffed animal or the squeaker in a squeak toy.)
  • The toy itself is big enough so it cannot be put into your child's nose, mouth, or ears. (Marbles and beads are examples of toys that are too small.)
  • No part of the toy, including print and decoration, is poisonous. Make sure the toy is labeled non-toxic.
  • The inside of the toy is not filled with a potentially harmful substance like small pellets.
  • Old baby furniture and toys have not been painted or repainted with lead-based paint.
  • There are no slots or holes that can pinch your child's fingers.
  • The toy cannot break easily and leave a sharp, jagged edge.
  • There are no pointed objects your child can fall on.
  • No part of the toy, such as a doll's hair bow, is attached with a straight pin or staple.
  • All moving parts are securely attached.
  • No string or cord on the toy is long enough to form a noose.
  • A broken toy is repaired or thrown away.
  • Indoor toys are kept indoors so they do not rust.
  • The toy is not stored in a plastic bag.
  • The windup mechanism in a mechanical toy is enclosed to avoid catching hair, fingers, and clothing.
  • All riding toys are well-constructed and well-balanced. For young toddlers, the child’s feet should touch the ground when seated.
  • The wheels on riding toys are large, sturdy, and spaced far apart.
  • Toys made with cloth carry the labels "flame resistant", "flame retardant", or "nonflammable".

Suggested Play Materials

  • Pyramid rings
  • Large and small colored blocks
  • Cuddly animals
  • Large, soft balls
  • Washable, unbreakable doll
  • Push-pull toys with rounded handles
  • Simple musical instruments
  • Sand box and sand toys
  • Water toys
  • Glove puppet
  • Simple 2- to 3-piece puzzles
  • Toy trucks, trains, or cars
  • Objects to imitate adults: plastic garden tools, toy telephone, toy dishes, or pots and pans
  • Books:
    • Nonsense verse and nursery rhyme
    • Sturdy, colorful picture books
  • Videos can be fun, and some can help with things such as toilet training or learning words and colors.

Look for toy recalls posted on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) homepage,; toll free number 1-800-638-2772. You can search by toy description and manufacturer. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) provides good information on toy safety at

Written by Donna Warner Manczak, PhD, MPH.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-08-09
Last reviewed: 2010-08-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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