Toys serve an important role in child development. Through play, they make children happy, keep them engaged, and teach them about themselves and the world around. Soft toys also serve as comfort objects and sleep buddies.
In a perfect world, all toys would be safe and parents wouldn’t have to worry about toy recalls and toy related injuries. Sadly, that isn’t the world we live in. Many children are hurt each year by dangerous toys. So it’s up to us mums and dads to make sure we’re purchasing safe, age appropriate ones for our children.
If you’re looking for soft toys and comforters for your little one, here are some of the things you need to check.
What to look for when buying soft toys and comforters
Well made and sturdy
Look for quality workmanship and thoughtful design. Toys must be able to withstand constant twisting, pulling, and squeezing. All parts must be stitched on, not glued. Seams must be securely sewn. Soft toys and comforters get dragged around and dribbled on, so they must be machine washable, too.
No small parts
For babies and preschoolers, avoid toys with eyes and noses made from buttons, small bits of plastic, glass, or wood. Even if these are securely fastened when you buy the toy, constant use can eventually loosen them. Facial features that are embroidered on are safer.
Hair, tails, “jewellery,” and other accessories can also pose a choking hazard if they’re not properly attached to the toy. Always make sure that toys don’t have parts so small they can fit into a toilet paper tube or a 35 mm film canister. The ACCC provides a free DIY “Choke Check” tool that lets you see if a toy or any detachable part is too small for young children.
Safe, nontoxic materials
Choose cloth toys made from natural fibres like cotton, hemp, and wool. Organic materials are best as they haven’t been exposed to synthetic pesticides, fertilisers, dyes, and finishes.
Babies love to suck and chew on things, so avoid fake fur or fake hair, which can pose a choking hazard, and flame resistant materials, which contain toxic chemicals.
Avoid toys that are stuffed with tiny beads. Polystyrene beads are especially dangerous as they can be inhaled.
Check for sharp objects like wires, especially in the ears and tails of stuffed animals. Even if these are initially covered in fabric, they can eventually poke through and cause injuries.
No dangly bits
Babies can strangle on ribbons, elastic, and string longer than 22 cm. Either avoid toys with dangly parts or remove them after purchasing. Check toys and comforters for bows or thread that may have unraveled.
Safety and quality symbols
The CE mark tells you that a product complies with the strict health, safety, and environmental protection requirements of the European Economic Area. OEKO-TEX means that a textile product has been tested for harmful substances like formaldehyde, heavy metals, and phthalates. In the UK, the Lion Mark symbolises quality and safety, and assures customers that a toy is ethically and sustainably made.
No batteries or magnets
Some soft toys produce sounds or vibrate. These may contain button batteries, which are a serious hazard if swallowed. With babies, avoid toys containing batteries or at least make sure that battery cases are secure and can’t be pried open by little fingers. Similarly, avoid toys with small magnets, which can also be swallowed.
Not chemically scented
Toys scented with synthetic fragrances are a no-no. “Fragrance” can include nasties like hormone disrupting phthalates, VOCs, and neurotoxicants.
Toys made from foam are not recommended for children under the age of 3. These toys can pose a choking risk if a little one bites off a piece.
Not too loud
If a toy seems too loud to you, it’s definitely too loud for baby and may harm her sensitive ears. Soft toys that squeak when pressed are gentler on baby ears than battery operated ones that produce high pitched sounds.
Choose comforters made from lightweight breathable fabrics like cotton, muslin, or bamboo. Make sure there are no loose ribbons, strings, or thread anywhere on the comforter.