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There is nothing which brings a family more joy than the arrival of a new baby which means that most of us receive a lot of baby gifts.
Everyone likes to celebrate a new baby but how do you know that the gifts which have been so thoughtfully chosen are safe for your new baby?
I have the classic family situation where my mother would not dream of buying a new toy when she can pass on much loved toys lovingly preserved from our own childhoods. Or she will proudly produce a charity shop find that doesn't look as if it has even been taken out of the box.
Alternatively my sister loves craft fairs and tries to buy only hand made toys and clothes. And lets not even go there with my brother who obviously thinks that the louder the toy is the more popular it is going to be.
But even when chosen and bought with love some toys, especially if they are 2nd hand or made by a well meaning neighbour, would not pass our current rigorous EN71 and CE safety tests. So how do you know what toys are safe for your baby? If the toy has a label on then half of your work has been done for you. Check it has a CE mark on it and whether are any age restrictions. These have been tightened up recently so if a 2nd hand toy says suitable from birth please still check it using the list below.
Here is our quick list of things to look out for before giving a new toy to your baby.
1. First and foremost never give a baby a toy with bead eyes. It doesn't matter if they have been secured with kryptonite it's much better not to have baby toys that have any small parts included in them. When developing toys we have in mind that a baby's trachea is about the same size as a straw. Anything they are given therefore must either be too big to be swallowed or small enough to go through a straw. Its not a scientific approach but hopefully it gives you an idea of the size of a choking hazard. As an aside the stuffing from toys is not normally regarded as a severe choking hazard. Try and put a handful in your mouth and you will instantly want to get it out which is what your baby will want to do too. However if you put a nice smooth plastic bead in your mouth it feels great to roll it around and then swallow it which is where the problems begin.
2. Following on in the Never mode please don't ever give your baby a toy with magnets or batteries. Again these can come out and be a choking hazard. The batteries are particularly nasty as if they are swallowed they can be corroded by stomach acid and cause real problems for your baby.
3. Painted toys, especially painted wooden toys. Check whether you can see a brand, if its someone like Lanke Kade or John Crane then it will be fine. If not you can buy a test to see if there is lead in the paint or you could just not let your baby have it. Lead in paint was banned in 1992 but there are some manufacturers who will use it because its cheap and the toys are then imported by people who don't know the risks.
4. If you wish to clean a toy before giving it to your baby then soft toys can go in to the washing machine. If it has bead eyes, and you are sure that you don't want to throw it away, then washing machine manufacturers advise that you put it in a pillow case in case the eyes come out and damage the drum. We would also advise putting soft toys in to the freezer over night. This is also a good tip if you have a child who is or could be asthmatic. Periodically wash and freeze their toys. It sounds unpleasant but it will get them very clean. Hard toys can be wiped clean with a suitable disinfectant.
Hopefully this has given you some guidance on what to look for to make sure the toys you give your baby are safe but for further guidance the Trading Standards website has a much more comprehensive guide to toy safety.