From a simple idea to a product on store shelves, making toys safe for children to play with is a top priority by toymakers and considered during every stage of development and production. To ensure that toys are safe, the U.S. toy industry follows a mandatory set of safety requirements within ASTM F963 – Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety, created under the auspices of ASTM International. The industry works year-round with pediatricians and other medical professionals, government, consumer groups, and child development experts in the continual review and revision of ASTM F963, which was most recently updated in 2017.
First developed in the 1970s and adopted by ASTM International in 1986, ASTM F963is considered the “gold standard” for children’s products and widely emulated around the world. It includes more than 100 requirements and tests that cover the mechanical, physical, electrical, chemical, microbiological, and material safety of toys and is helmed by the ASTM Subcommittee on Toy Safety, a multi-stakeholder expert group that continually works to ensure the standard supports safety and reflects the latest information on risk. Since 2008, federal law has mandated that all toys sold in the U.S. are tested and certified compliant with F963.
Over the years, the standard has protected children in countless ways, as it relates to possible hazards that may not be recognized readily by the public, but may be encountered during normal use (or misuse) of a toy.
In addition, the industry works hand-in-hand with government agencies and other groups to protect consumers from products that present a hazard. Recalls create a “safety net” to remove faulty product from the distribution chain and, when necessary, out of consumers’ homes. However, the toy industry has a remarkable record of producing safe product and recalls are exceedingly rare, less than 0.003 percent of the three billion toys sold in the U.S. each year.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), toy recalls have declined dramatically in recent years. The CPSC consistently lists toys among the safest consumer product categories found in the home.
“The toy industry was founded on the principle of providing engaging, fun, and safe toys to children everywhere,” said Joan Lawrence, senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs at The Toy Association and chair of the diverse, expert ASTM Subcommittee on Toy Safety. “The robust network of safety measures our industry has in place gives parents, caregivers, and the medical community confidence in knowing that toy safety is a 24/7/365 priority for the industry.”
Ensuring Safe Play is a Collective Effort
Pediatric medical professionals have a lot of influence when it comes to educating families about toy safety. Medical professionals can be an excellent resource to share vital information, raise awareness of potential hazards, and to clarify any misinformation regarding unsafe toys, especially in today’s digital and social media-driven world.
The Toy Association’s consumer website, PlaySafe.org, continues to be a trusted resource for families who want accurate, helpful information about safe play.
Here are some top safety tips medical professionals can share with parents and caregivers about toy safety:
- Proper Supervision & Safe Play: Adults should always supervise play, especially for younger children. Importantly, encourage parents and caregivers to get on the floor and play with their children! Demonstrating the correct way to use a toy or game is the best way to make sure kids understand how to properly and safely enjoy a toy.
- Age-Grading: Parents should always check and follow the age guidance and other safety information on toy packaging – an essential factor in ensuring toys are safe for their children. Age-grading isn’t about how smart a child is – it’s safety guidance that’s based on the developmental skills and abilities of children at a given age, and the specific features of a toy.
- Many parents are aware of the issue of choking hazards – but many don’t know that the risk doesn’t end with infancy. Children up to three years of age, and those older who tend to mouth objects, should not have access to small parts, whether from toys or other items around the home (such as coins, buttons, batteries, etc.). Encourage parents to invest in a Small Parts Tester to test the size of toys and other objects around the home. (These can be found in the “baby proofing” section of stores and online.) Small powerful magnets and coin-cell batteries can be especially dangerous if swallowed, and are specifically addressed by ASTM F963 for toys; however, extra precautions should be taken to protect small children from these items in non-toy products that are in the home.
- The Importance of Shopping at Reputable Retailers: Adults should exercise caution when buying toys at flea markets, garage sales, second-hand / thrift stores, etc., as these vendors may not be monitoring for recalled products. As well, when online shopping, it’s important to be extra vigilant that consumers are shopping from a reputable brand they know and trust. Families are also urged to stay up-to-date on toy recalls ensuring that all recalled products are kept out of their homes – and out of children’s hands.
- Separating Older & Younger Kids’ Toys: It’s a good idea to keep a separate toy chest for older kids whose toys may contain small parts. Parents can encourage older children to help keep toys separate and keep their younger siblings safe.
As the not-for-profit trade group representing all businesses involved in creating and delivering toys and youth entertainment products for kids of all ages, The Toy Association counts among its members more than 1000 toymakers, retailers, inventors, designers, testing labs, and others that are deeply committed to bringing safe and fun play to children.
Visit PlaySafe.org for additional information on safe play tips, a safe toy buying guide, recalls and more. �EWOB6