During these unprecedented times of quarantine, school closures and an unclear view to when we can resume our former daily lives, it's important to create a home atmosphere that is safe for you, your family, your pets and your sanity.
The parts of our homes that we've always deemed "safe enough" or "suitable" may no longer be so while children are home more or when parents are unable to give children their full attention due to work from home schedules. All of this is no cause for alarm, but an opportunity to take a second look at your home with refreshed (though tired) eyes and make safety a new priority at home. As parents, we can't prevent every bump and bruise, but we can make small (and often free) changes to improve the safety of the space we occupy. So, take a deep breath, or maybe grab a magarita like this New York Times writer, and take these tips to heart.
In addition to the basics of child safety at home, like locked drawers, stair safety and securing poisonous products, we often fail to consider the safety of the toys are children play with every day.
A key priority for parents right now as they set up a child’s new home-based play environment should be safety. Our recommendations tie into the Montessori Method, which recommends setting up an environment for your child that is completely safe or “child-proofed” so that they can explore freely within it and don’t require constant adult intervention that might interrupt their concentration. Easily said, but not easily done, unless you follow our tips. Here's a quick checklist to make sure they are safe for your little one.
- Follow all manufacturer’s age recommendations. The reason most toys are marked for 3 years+ is not because they are only developmentally appropriate for 3+, but because they either can’t be or weren’t safety approved for younger children. In other words, if you see a toy marked 3+ that is clearly for a younger child, the age discrepancy on the label is likely due to safety concerns.
- Look for toys marked as “ASTM F963” compliant (or similar). An ASTM F963 certification is the consumer safety specification for toy safety in the US. Toys with this certification or something similar have been rigorously safety tested for the specified age group.*
- Ensure that every piece of the toy is at least 1.25 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches long. This means they can’t get lodged in a child’s windpipe and become a choking hazard. There are special tubes called Small Parts Testing Tubes or Small-Object Choking Testers commonly available on Amazon that can help you evaluate whether or not something is a choking hazard. If the object completely fits in the tube (without sticking out the top), it is a hazard.
- Check for sturdy construction. Babies and toddlers are tough on toys. Even when a toy doesn’t come with small parts, make sure it is sturdy enough to withstand being dropped and heavily loved. If a toy breaks and releases a small part during play, it might pose a safety threat. As part of safety testing in the US, toys are dropped repeatedly from different angles to make sure no small parts break loose. This is one of the hardest tests to pass and requires very sturdy construction, another reason why it is important to look for safety certifications.
- Do compression and “torque” testing. The toy should withstand significant twisting, pulling or pressing. One of the beauties of play is that it is creative and free! Children will come up with all kinds of inventive ways to play with their toys, and safe toys pass “compression” and “torque” testing to ensure that the toy remains safe no matter how the child plays with it. This includes making sure that attachments like buttons and snaps are sewn on very securely.
- Make sure paints and finishes are non-toxic. As any parent knows, babies chew and suck on their toys constantly. It’s important to make sure that none of the materials they get their mouths on contain any toxic resin that they could ingest. This applies to both the materials toys are made of and packaged in, as well as toy art supplies like paints, clay and drawing materials.
- If your child is under 18 months, make sure strings measure less than 12 inches. If they are longer, they could pose a strangulation risk. This applies to toys that come with strings, but also the play environment children occupy. Look for strings/ribbons/ropes that hang or attached shades, curtains, blinds, nightgowns or dress-up clothes and even bedding.