Safety signpost: Christmas shopping for toys? Here’s our guide to essential toy safety

13 Nov 2013

A selection of unsafe toys seized by Birmingham Trading Standards
Image courtesy of Birmingham Mail.

As Christmas approaches, help spread the word to parents about toy safety and what to look for when buying toys.

Of all the risks to children’s safety, the very things that are designed and produced especially for them, to make them happy, stimulate them and help their development should be the least of a parent’s worries.

However, some toys and play equipment bought in good faith by children’s parents, relatives and friends can pose a risk. Most toys in the UK are actually very safe - there is extensive legislation governing the manufacture of toys in the UK and the rest of Europe. But there are cheap, illegal imports available, so as parents start to think about Christmas shopping, now is a good time to spread the message.

Before we get started on shopping, it’s worth remembering that a big risk factor is younger children getting hold of toys which aren’t appropriate to their age. We’re not talking about something like Call of Duty on the Xbox, but only a small age difference can be critical – for example, a suitable toy for a child of seven might be harmful for their toddler sibling.

Sometimes toys may have small components which can pose a choking risk, which might not be immediately apparent.

Also, the other main risk toys pose is a trip hazard for children and adults, so it’s a pain, but it is important to keep floors tidy and to ensure that stairs are kept free of toys and other clutter.

These seem like obvious precautions to take, but it’s worth reminding parents to take extra care around Christmas when there are lots of new and unfamiliar toys in the house.

Golden rules 

When shopping for Christmas presents, there are three golden rules.

  1. Always head to reputable retailers, who take care about the products they stock year-round and where you can return toys if they have a fault. Markets, car boot sales or temporary shops often sell illegally imported toys that are unlikely to conform to strict toy safety requirements. Counterfeit goods may have low prices but are illegal, are not made to proper standards and can be dangerous for children. Trading standards have seized illegal toys that quickly fall apart, revealing sharp metal spikes and nails, and others with cords and balls that could easily choke a young child to death.
  2. If you’re shopping online, head to the websites of well-known retailers and brand names. Unfortunately, internet auction sites can also be prime sources of counterfeits. Be wary of ‘too good to be true’ bargains. If it costs less than half the normal price, it is likely to be a fake.
  3. Make sure that the toys you give are appropriate for the child’s age, as babies and toddlers can choke on small parts or swallow harmful components.
Lion mark

The Lion Mark is a good indicator of a toy’s safety. Toys with this mark have been made to a high standard of safety and quality, as the mark is used by members of the British Toy and Hobby Association.

0-3 warning symbol

Toys that are not intended for children under 36 months are clearly marked with an age warning symbol.

CE logo

You will also see the ‘CE’ mark on toys. This is required by law on any toy sold within the EU. However, it is only the manufacturer’s claim of compliance with European legislation and is not intended as a guide for consumers.

Though do remember that counterfeiters may copy not just the toy but the packaging too! So, by itself, a safety mark is no guarantee of a toy’s safety.

Leaflet for parents

CAPT has a useful leaflet for parents, How safe are your child’s toys? which covers how to choose safe toys; understanding marks on toys; choosing age-appropriate toys and tips on individual toys.

In the run up to Christmas, why not order a pack for the families you work with? A pack of 50 costs just £8.45 plus £3.95 P&P.

More information