Everyone wants what is best for their child. So, when it comes to toys, it should come as no surprise that parents want the best — and safest — toys around.

UL’s Consumer and Retail Services laboratory in Cabiate, Italy — together with other UL laboratories around the world — works to help manufacturers test the safety of their toys by testing for different hazards, such as choking or chemical risks. UL’s safety science testing experts, such as Elisa Gavazza, global technical leader for UL, know what to look out for to help keep your child safer at play.

Total recall

Toys come in all shapes, sizes and materials and can represent different hazards related to their physical, mechanical, flammability or chemical characteristics, according to international safety standards and regulations. The chemical safety of toys represents a particular challenge. Figuring out what will happen when a toy’s plastic meets stomach acid — will it release toxic substances, such as heavy metals — requires specific tests.

Even though toys face regulatory requirements and technical standards before they hit the market, finding an unsafe product on store shelves is still a possibility. To make sure these toys don’t make their way into a toy box near you, look for safety recall notifications. To see a list of the latest recalls of all types of products, you can visit for example the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website or the SafetyGate, the rapid alert system for dangerous nonfood products in Europe.

Danger can come in small packages

Younger children (under the age of 36 months) are susceptible to choking hazards, so parents and guardians need to stay informed. Always read a toy’s warnings and label information. These should contain information on what age range the toy is safe for as well as any other information about the toy, including any physical or mechanical risks associated with the product.

“If the toy is marked as not suitable for children under 36 months, it is because there are physical mechanical risks associated with the product,” Gavazza said. “The risks associated with the product may be a hazard for some younger children, so even if you are confident that your daughter or son is different from other children of the same age, it is absolutely imperative to follow the warning statements.”

Beyond reading any documentation that comes with a toy, make sure to buy from reputable shops, so you can have confidence in the manufacturer and distributor.

Misplaced power can spell disaster

Toys and batteries go together like peanut butter and jelly. But unlike the other example, batteries should not be swallowed and present a hazard to people if ingested, such as chemical burns that can cause injury or death.

When you buy a toy, make sure that the button or coin cell batteries — batteries similar to those that you’d find in a watch — are accessible only with the use of a tool or have a battery compartment cover that has to be opened with at least two independent, simultaneous movements.

Gavazza said most issues with batteries don’t occur from children playing with toys, but rather battery-operated equipment accessible to children without the specific safety requirements that prevent children from accessing batteries.

SafeBee® Top Three

1. Check for product safety recalls regularly

2. Always read the label of a toy as it may let you know about specific hazards

3. Make sure toys keep batteries secure and away from younger children