While toys in today's marketplace are generally much safer than a decade ago, each year Fair Trading detects new products which have the potential to cause injury or even death to young children. Toys with small parts are a particular worry. Anything smaller than a ping pong ball or an Australian 20 cent coin could choke a child under three years. The ACCC has a Choke Check Tool on its website to help you identify toys and other products with small parts that a young child could choke on. Or go to the safe toys checklist (PDF, 558.69 KB) and the toys page on the Product Safety Australia website, where you can also search for banned or recalled toys.
If you become aware of an unsafe situation or item, whether or not anyone has been injured, you should alert the supplier about the issue. You can also report it by lodging a complaint on our website or via the Product Safety Australia website.
Story safety checklist
The 'Five S’s of Toy Safety' is a good place to start to select safer, age-appropriate toys:
- Size - the smaller the child, the bigger the toy should be (anything smaller than a 20 cent piece or ping pong ball is too small for a child under three).
- Shape - be wary of products that, because of their shape, may be easily swallowed or have sharp edges or points.
- Surface - make sure all finishes are non-toxic (this should be stated on packaging).
- Strings - anything over 30cm is a strangulation hazard for a small child and should be removed.
- Supervision - nothing replaces close supervision.
If you have purchased an unsafe toy, you can return the toy to the store for a refund or dispose of the toy immediately.
Common sense rules when buying toys
Here are some common sense rules to follow when buying toys:
- Avoid buying toys (and other household items) containing coin or button batteries when you have young children in the home.
- Check for sharp edges or rough surfaces as they can cause cuts and splinters.
- Buy washable, non-breakable toys for babies. Anything smaller than a 20 cent piece can choke a child under three years old.
- Toy chests and boxes should be designed not to close on top of children, or better still with a removable lid. Anything big enough to crawl inside must have ventilation holes.
- Read the age labelling on new toys. 'Not suitable for children under three' means that there are small parts which could be swallowed; it is not an indication of skill level or intelligence.
- Check toys regularly for loose parts which may be choking dangers.
- Check that there are no gaps or holes which could entrap a child's fingers.
- If buying a projectile toy, only choose ones that have soft, one-piece darts or non-removable suction caps.
- Be wary of toys that make loud noises as they can be harmful to hearing. Particularly toys which are held against the ear, such as walkie talkies and toy mobile phones.
- Check for ventilation before buying tents, masks, helmets etc.
- Ensure that ride-on toys are appropriate to the age of the child and are stable. Toy bikes should have effective brakes which can be applied by the rider.
- Check toys that contain magnets to make sure that they’ve not come loose. Remove loose magnets from the toy box.
- Remember that rings, inflatable armbands, kick boards and inflatable toys are not safety devices and children in the water must be supervised at all times to prevent drowning.
Mandatory standards and permanent bans
Below are some examples of categories of children’s toys that are subject to safety warning label requirements, mandatory standards or permanent bans. Go to the <Product Safety website> For more information on mandatory standards and permanent bans for children’s toys.
Toys containing magnets
Toys containing small magnets can be particularly dangerous if they are swallowed. Go to the magnets in toys page for more information.
Aquatic and flotation toys
Children must always be supervised by a competent adult while using an aquatic or flotation toy. These products must have safety warning labels as well as non-return air valves and permanently attached stoppers. Go to the flotation and aquatic toys page on the Product Safety Australia website for more information.
Projectile toys fall under a mandatory standard that includes toy guns, dart gun sets, bow and arrows, slingshots and other pull-back toys that shoot small objects in the air. Unsafe projectile toys containing small parts can be a choking hazard and children can suffer serious eye injuries if these toys are strong enough to shoot other objects such as nails or pencils. Go to the projectile toys page on the Product Safety Australia website for more information.
Water yo-yo balls
It’s illegal to sell soft synthetic gelatinous liquid and/or novelty filled balls or shapes moulded to a soft synthetic gelatinous stretchable cord which includes a small loop to put a finger through. These products are banned because the cord may pose a strangulation hazard. Go to the yo-yo water balls page on the Product Safety Australia website for more information.
Toys and other products containing coin and button batteries
Coin and button batteries are found in many household products including remote controls, kitchen scales, thermometers, book lights, and seasonal novelties (commonly sold at night time events). To avoid the risk of ingestion, avoid buying products powered by these types of batteries if you have a young child in your home. If you must buy these products, ensure the batteries are non-replaceable (sealed inside the product) or the battery compartment is either secured with a screw or requires two independent movements to open it. Look for child-resistant packaging when buying replacement batteries and properly dispose of flat batteries so young children cannot access them. If you suspect a young child has swallowed a coin or button battery, contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 and you will be directed to the nearest hospital or emergency service that can manage the injury. Do not let the child eat or drink and do not induce vomiting.
Australian Consumer Law regulators encourage suppliers to adhere to the Industry Code for Consumer Goods that Contain Button Batteries. Go to the button batteries page on the Product Safety Australia website for more information.