“When buying toys for my son, I look for ones that safe, fun and educational,” says Nadia Gool Pereira. Her son is a year and four months old. “For example, I bought a colourful dinosaur toy – the letter buttons can either play songs or the alphabet depending on what setting it’s on. I also make sure there are no small parts that he could put into his mouth. When children are teething they try to bite everything they can get their hands on.”
“We don’t allow toy weapons because they have a violent nature,” says Lisa Wong, mom to two sons. “I believe outdoor play is important. We try to limit screen time.”
“I like to get my daughter books and puzzles, and I avoid those battery operated noisy toys because I like my sanity!” says Abigail Crouse.
“I love toys that encourage imagination and free play for my boys,” says Julie Mentor. “I actively avoid battery-operate toys.”
Caelin Roodt has a specific way of choosing toys for her daughter: "My gift go-to guide is three educational toys - one that covers an aspect of life science, one that covers an aspect of numeracy or engineering and one that covers literature."
Are they age appropriate?
There is a reason most toys have a recommended age sticker. Pay close attention to this and find a toy that will be most suitable to your child’s age, interest and skill level. Remember, children develop at different rates so be realistic about their ability and maturity level. For example, if your three-year-old puts everything into his mouth, wait a bit longer before giving him toys that have small pieces.
According to Fisher-Price, go for toys that are colourful, lightweight and have various textures for children under the age of one. At this age, they learn through sight, touch, sound and taste. Age recommendations are most important for children under the age of three – at this age most kids are likely to put things in their mouth.
Does it contain any magnets?
Magnets are a hidden hazard. If your child accidentally swallows two more or more magnets (or even a magnet and a metal object), they can join up through intestinal walls. This can lead to twisted, pinched or blocked intestines. It’s a good idea to keep toys with magnets away from children under the age of 14.
Are there any choking hazards?
When it comes to choking hazards we often think of small removable parts but cords or strings are just as dangerous. When your child is able to climb onto his hands and knees, remove hanging mobiles, window blinds and keep an eye on toys that come with a string or cord longer than 30 cm. Avoid buying toys that require constant supervision – if it looks like your child will need help or it could break easily, don’t buy it.
Follow the four ‘s’ guidelines
According to Childsafe, a campaign of the Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Southern Africa and Safe Kids Worldwide, you can follow these simple guidelines when choosing a toy:
S for size: the smaller the child is, the bigger the toy should be.
S for shape: look for toys with no sharp or rough edges.
S for surface: make sure the toy is nontoxic and non-flammable.
S for strings: avoid cords, ropes, ribbons or strings on toys.