Choosing safe gifts for kids this holiday season

Happy boy opens gift at ChristmastimeDo you know what toys are safe for a child? As an adult, sometimes it’s hard to tell. A toy might not look dangerous to you, but hazards may lurk for children.

In recent years, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has created a robust toy safety system, requiring testing by independent, third-party laboratories around the world.

It’s important to remember not to get caught up in the excitement of the season and forget to think about whether a gift is appropriate for an individual child.

This month, a consumer watchdog group issued its annual list of the “10 Worst Toys” for the holiday season. World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) has published the annual list since 1973 to show the potential some toys have to cause harm.

Here are a few tips to consider as you’re shopping for the children on your list this holiday season:

For younger children

  • Ask yourself if any part of the toy could be bitten off or swallowed, and don’t give toys with small parts that could be a choking hazard. Remember that young children, especially those under 3, tend to put things in their mouths. If part of a toy can fit in a toilet paper roll, the toy is not appropriate for a child under age 3.
  • Avoid play sets with small magnets that could present a choking hazard and make sure batteries are secured within the toy.
  • Inspect toys for sturdiness. They should be durable, with no points or sharp edges that could cut small hands or fingers. They should also withstand impact.
  • Avoid toys with string, ribbon, straps or a cord longer than seven inches, as these may pose a risk of strangulation.

Safety tips for all children

  • Inspect all toys before purchasing to make sure they are appropriate for a child’s age and development level, and read the packaging. Some toys have the appropriate age range marked on the box.
  • Remember that if a toy looks too much like the real thing, a child could mistake the real thing for the toy.
  • Avoid toys that shoot, or include parts that fly off.
  • Consider whether the toy could be a fire hazard, and avoid toys with electrical heating elements for children under age 8.
  • For a gift of sports equipment, include the appropriate protective gear (such as a helmet with a bike or skateboard).
  • It’s OK to make recommendations to family members and friends about gifts that you feel are appropriate for your child, and be diligent about inspecting gifts before allowing your child to play with them. If you’re buying gifts for other children, include a gift receipt if possible in case it is not suitable.
  • Once toys are opened, keep those meant for older children away from younger ones.
  • Dispose of packaging material immediately, as children might play with plastic wrapping, and some plastic packaging might have sharp edges.
  • And finally, remember that any toy labeled “supervision required” must always be used in the presence of an adult. Battery charging should also be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children, and some chargers lack a mechanism to prevent overcharging.

Toys can sometimes be recalled for safety reasons, so check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website,, for any recalls.

For further information about UofL Pediatrics, visit the practice website. To learn more about Dr. Felton, visit her physician profile. If you don’t have a pediatrician, we would love to see you in one of our metro Louisville locations. You can request an appointment online, or call (502) 588-6000.



About Heather Felton, M.D.

Dr. Heather Felton is medical director of UofL Pediatrics – Sam Swope Kosair Charities Centre. She is also an assistant professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and her medical degree from the University of Louisville School of Medicine. She is a member of the American Medical Association, Kentucky Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and Group of Women in Medicine and Science. Her specialty is pediatrics. Dr. Felton’s areas of interest include safety and injury prevention; improving anticipated guidance provided to families during check-ups; and advocating for children’s safety.

All posts by Heather Felton, M.D.