Government issues guidance for parents on how to buy toys safely this Christmas

·4-min read
Parents are being urged to consider safety when buying toys for children this Christmas. (Getty Images)
Parents are being urged to consider safety when buying toys for children this Christmas. (Getty Images)

While thoughts will no doubt be turning to tracking down the toys on the top of kids' wishlists this year, families are being encouraged to ensure the products bought are safe to use. 

From checking the validity of a seller to making sure button batteries are securely locked away, the advice is designed to help parents and carers avoid potential pitfalls when little ones open their presents on Christmas morning. 

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has teamed up with Chartered Trading Standards Institute, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Child Accident Prevention Trust and Netmums to raise awareness of how to buy toys safely.

Other advice includes avoiding toys with small parts when buying for toddlers and younger as these can be a choking hazard, taking time to read warnings and instructions and watching out for magnets, which can be hazardous to children when swallowed. 

Here's the OPSS' advice for parents:

Know who you are buying from

Sure, it's tempting to snap up that sell-out L.O.L doll you've managed to track down online, but it is important to check a seller's credentials first. 

"Wherever you are shopping, remember reputation matters," the guidance explains. Before you buy, the OPSS suggests finding out whether the seller is widely recognised for safe and reliable toys. 

"Get as much information on the seller as you can, especially if you’re buying from an online marketplace," the guidance adds. 

"Not everything sold on an online platform is supplied by them. If the actual supplier is not based in the UK, you may face heightened risks."

(Getty Images)
The OPSS is advising parents to consider age guidance. (Getty Images)

Always read the warnings and instructions

We know you've got an entire Christmas dinner to prepare, but it is worth taking a few minutes carefully to read the instructions before letting your child loose on their new toy. 

"Toys must be clearly marked with age restrictions, which are based on risks such as choking hazards," the guidance explains. 

The OPSS also recommends ensuring you follow age guidance.

Consider special needs

Children with special needs might be more vulnerable, so the OPSS advises keeping this in mind when shopping.

Avoid toys with small parts

Some toys will contain small parts that can be swallowed, or have sharp or pointy edges, so these won't be suitable for smaller children as they can be a choking hazard.

Look out for strangulation hazards

As well as concern over choking hazards, the OPSS advises looking out for toys and costumes with loose ribbons as these can also pose risks to young children.

Watch: Watch out for counterfeit toys this Christmas

Check the toys are for kids

The OPSS also advised parents to watch out for magnets which can look like toys as these can be dangerous to children. 

Last year, doctors issued a warning to parents about the risks of children swallowing magnets. 

“Magnetic balls may cause a choking hazard if grouped together, but even individually, magnets can cause damage to the digestive tract including the delicate lining of the bowel,” MyHealthcare Clinic's Dr Stephanie Ooi, a GP, previously told Yahoo UK.

“This can cause tears which could lead to internal bleeding and further infection.

“Recently, there have been a number of cases where these magnets have been swallowed causing perforated bowels and tears in the stomach which have required surgical intervention.

“I would recommend keeping them away from children.”

Compare the sellers

Everyone loves a bargain but if something appears too good to be true it is likely there's a catch. "Compare the toy’s price with other sellers," the OPSS recommends. "If it’s a fraction of the cost, it’s likely to be counterfeit."

(Getty Images)
Parents are being advised to read the instructions properly before letting children loose on their Christmas presents. (Getty Images)

Check for button batteries

Ensure that any button batteries in a toy are safely behind a screwed-down flap. 

Doctors have previously advised parents to be alert to the dangers of button batteries following an investigation into the death of a child who swallowed one.

The small, round batteries, which are often found in toys and remote controls, can cause chemical burns if they come into contact with the mouth or nose.

The warning, issued by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, came after an investigation into the death of a child in 2018.

Check for product recalls

Though it is easy to miss if a certain item has been recalled, you can check if the toy you’re buying has been recalled at productrecallcampaign.gov.uk

Check before you wrap

Toys must be clearly marked with age restrictions, which are based on risks such as choking hazards, so before you seal the deal with the sellotape it is worth double checking the item details, always following the age recommendations.

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