How to Spot Dangerous Toys

Shoppers can make smart and safe gift purchases by looking out for common risks in toys.

Young woman is choosing toys for her kid.
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Many injuries were associated with a toy, but not necessarily caused by a toy, the CPSC found. For example, a 2-year-old boy was hit in the face by a metal toy thrown by a sibling, resulting in facial cuts. A 4-year-old boy hit himself in the eye with a toy dinosaur, causing blurred vision and eye redness.

No more lead. There were no toy recalls in 2013 for lead violations, which is significant considering there were 172 such recalls in fiscal year 2008. Much of that drop, Fleming says, is from the commission's stringent toy standards and a bigger effort to stop dangerous toys from entering U.S. ports. Lead paint used to be popular in toys, and is dangerous when ingested.

While the CPSC is always on the lookout for lead paint in toys and realizes that toy makers could try to send lead painted toys to the U.S., the agency is pleased with its work in this area and hopes for another year without lead-related recalls, Fleming says.

Since many imported toys are made in China and other places overseas where safety defects have been found, one way to find safe toys is to buy ones that are made in America, says Sarah Mazzone, a mother who founded MadeinUSAChallenge.com in 2011 to help consumers find safe, green toys.

[See: 10 Baby Products You Should Never Buy.]

Check toys already in the house. It's a good idea to clean play areas and look for wear and tear on toys that may not have much playtime left in them, Fleming says.

Checking the CPSC website daily for recalls can be an interesting way to spend the days after gifts are finally exchanged, though seeing the almost daily recalls of products that go beyond toys can be depressing.

A better approach might be following manufacturers' warnings and instructions, as Sue recommends, and providing age-appropriate supervision.

"Remember commonsense rules," Sue says. "Parents should consider the age, ability, temperament and developmental level of the child recipient."