Toy safety

Small parts of toys pose a hazard to babies and young children — they can cut, choke, poison or strangle if they are not safe, or not used safely.

The basics

Young babies explore their world by putting things in their mouths, but children under 3 years of age don't have a well-developed coughing reflex and will choke easily on small items.

Product safety standard

Toys for children aged under 3 are subject to a product safety standard.

See Children's toys standard for more information.

Before you buy a toy

Always buy toys that are right for your child’s age. Check out whether the toy is suitable using the “Six S” guide:

Size

The smaller the child, the bigger the toy. Remember that children under 3 put everything in their mouths, up their noses and in their ears. Also, they can’t cough things up. So, if a toy is small enough to fit into a container the size of a film canister, or can easily break into small parts, a child under 3 shouldn't be playing with it.

Surface

Check that paints and fillings aren’t toxic, because children can be poisoned if they lick or swallow them. Also, check that soft toys are fire resistant and that the fillings can’t come out easily and cause a child to choke on them.

Strings

Check that strings or tails on toys are not long enough to cut off a child’s circulation. Also check that they are firmly attached to the toy.

Supervision

Small children need close supervision with toys to help prevent accidents from happening. Remember, a supervised child is a safer child. Toys for older children need to be kept out of reach of younger children.

Smooth

If toys have sharp points or rough edges a child could badly scratch or cut themselves.

Sound

See Noisy toys for our advice about toys that make noises.

Choosing the right toys for their age

0-6 months

Choose toys that can be chewed, sucked, and tugged. Toys should be big enough so the baby can’t fit it all in his or her mouth.

Good choices

Mobiles with interesting shapes and colours (but keep the mobile out of reach), soft toys, rattles.

6 months - 1 year

Choose toys that are strong, easily cleaned, and with no detachable parts.

Good choices

Pull and push toys, floating bath toys, large building bricks or blocks, soft toys, large soft balls, cars and lorries marked safe for under ones.

2-3 years

Choose toys to develop a child’s coordination.

Good choices

Crayons, felt pens, picture books, sorting games, single musical instruments, balls, hand puppets, wheel barrows, slides, sit and ride toys. But take care to avoid choking hazards.

3-5 years

Choose toys that are used for imaginative games.

Good choices

Toys to dress up, toy telephones, dolls houses, farm sets, cars, dump trucks, trains, tricycles, costumes, balls, buckets and spades, felt pens, paints, chalk and paper.

5-7 years

Choose toys that involve action and imagination.

Good choices

Skipping ropes, bikes, kites, construction sets, puppets, play sets, musical instruments, modelling materials.

7-10 years

Children follow their own interests — find out what they are into.

Playing with toys safely

Make sure the toy is suitable for the child's age. Toys for older children need to be kept out of reach of younger children.

Small children need close supervision with toys to help prevent accidents from happening.

Reporting an issue with a child's toy

If you have a safety problem or concern with a child's toy, let us know.

Report an unsafe product

Under the Consumer Guarantees Act you can get a refund, replacement or compensation if goods are unsafe. The Consumer Protection website has more information about what to do when you have a problem with goods.

Consumer Protection website — Faulty products(external link)

The Commerce Commission enforces the Children’s Toys Product Safety Standard.

Commerce Commission New Zealand website — Children's toys(external link)