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Toy Safety: Preschoolers (3 to 6 Years)


Children's imaginations flourish during the preschool years. Play takes up a lot of preschoolers' time, and helps them learn. Dramatic play now becomes popular, and children imitate familiar roles. They also tend to prefer "natural" toys like mud, sand, or water that let them be creative. Likewise, working with art materials also releases creative energy.

Preschoolers do not like too many rules and regulations when they play. They love to invent their own games. Their attention span is short, so activities that take a short time are best. Young children enjoy playing “dress up” and imaginary games.

Preschoolers need close supervision because most play-related accidents and injuries occur within this age group. Check if your child's toys are safe and make sure your child has proper adult supervision.

Toy Safety Checklist

  • 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.
  • No part of the toy, including print and decoration, is poisonous. Make sure the toy is labeled non- toxic.
  • 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 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.
  • A broken toy is repaired or thrown away.
  • Indoor toys are kept indoors so they do not rust.
  • 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.
  • The wheels on riding toys are large, sturdy, and spaced far apart.
  • Art projects use only water-based paints and nontoxic clay.
  • A stuffed doll or animal is made with strong material and thread and not filled with small, loose pellets.
  • Toys made with cloth carry the labels "flame resistant", "flame retardant", or "nonflammable".
  • Keep uninflated balloons out of reach and throw away all broken balloons. More children have suffocated on uninflated balloons and pieces of broken balloons than on any other type of toy.
  • First helmets are a great way to start a child on the right road. Insist children always wear a fitted helmet to ride tricycles or bikes, and when on skates.
  • Pay attention to the age recommendations on toy labels. Don't try to challenge your child by buying a toy recommended for an older child.
  • Make sure that toy chests do not have a heavy, free-falling lid. Make sure there is ventilation in any toy chest or storage box large enough for your child to fall or climb into.

Suggested Play Materials

  • Huge carton or box
  • Large and small toy cars, trucks, and trains
  • Cuddly toy animals
  • Washable unbreakable doll
  • Simple musical instruments
  • Farm and zoo animal sets
  • Miniature circus, hospital, or fire station sets
  • Large balls
  • Costume dress-up box
  • Sand box and sand toys
  • Water toys
  • Art supplies: paints, modeling clay, paste, colored paper, and blunt scissors. Make sure crayons and paints are non-toxic.
  • Puppets (store-bought or homemade)
  • Wagon to ride in
  • Tricycle
  • Crawl-through play equipment
  • Simple construction sets
  • Toy walkie-talkie
  • Miniature household items: play telephone, toy garden tools, doll house and furniture, plastic dishes
  • Books:
    • Nonsense and nursery rhyme
    • Books about familiar people and places
    • Fun, playful books

Look for toy recalls posted on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) homepage, http://www.CPSC.gov 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 http://www.toysafety.net.


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 health care professional.

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