Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.4 Toys

6.4.1 Selected Toys Inaccessibility of Toys or Objects to Children Under Three Years of Age

Small objects, toys, and toy parts available to children under the age of three years should meet the federal small parts standards for toys. The following toys or objects should not be accessible to children under three years of age:

  1. Toys or objects with removable parts with a diameter less than one and one-quarter inches and a length between one inch and two and one-quarter inches;
  2. Balls and toys with spherical, ovoid (egg shaped), or elliptical parts that are smaller than one and three-quarters inches in diameter;
  3. Toys with sharp points and edges;
  4. Plastic bags;
  5. Styrofoam objects;
  6. Coins;
  7. Rubber or latex balloons;
  8. Safety pins;
  9. Marbles;
  10. Magnets;
  11. Foam blocks, books, or objects;
  12. Other small objects;
  13. Latex gloves;
  14. Bulletin board tacks;
  15. Glitter.
Injury and fatality from aspiration of small parts is well-documented (1,2). Eliminating small parts from children’s environment will greatly reduce the risk (2). Objects should not be small enough to fit entirely into a child’s mouth.

According to the federal government’s small parts standard on a safe-size toy for children under three years of age, a small part should be at least one and one-quarter inches in diameter and between one inch and two and one-quarter inches long; any part smaller than this has a potential choking hazard.

Magnets generally are small enough to pass through the digestive tract, however, they can attach to each other across intestinal walls, causing obstructions and perforations within the gastrointestinal tract (5).

Glitter, inadvertently rubbed in eyes, has been known to scratch the surface of the eye and is especially hazardous in children under three years of age (3).

Toys can also contain many chemicals of concern such as lead, phthalates found in many polyvinylchloride (PVC) plastics, cadmium, chlorine, arsenic, bromine, and mercury. When children put toys in their mouths, they may be exposed to these chemicals.

Toys or games intended for use by children three to five years of age and that contain small parts should be labeled “CHOKING HAZARD--Small Parts. Not for children under three.” Because choking on small parts occurs throughout the preschool years, small parts should be kept away from children at least up to three years of age. Also, children occasionally have choked on toys or toy parts that meet federal standards, so caregivers/teachers must constantly be vigilant (2).

The federal standard that applies is Code of Federal Regulations, Title 16, Part 1501 – “Method for Identifying Toys and Other Articles Intended for Use by Children Under 3 Years of Age Which Present Choking, Aspiration, or Ingestion Hazards Because of Small Parts” – which defines the method for identifying toys and other articles intended for use by children under three years of age that present choking, aspiration, or ingestion hazards because of small parts. To obtain this publication, contact the Superintendent of Documents of the U.S. Government Printing Office or access online at This information also is described in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) document, “Small Parts Regulations: Toys and Products Intended for Use by Children Under 3 Years Old,” available online at
regsumsmallparts.pdf. Also note the ASTM International (ASTM) standard “F963-08: Standard Consumer Safety Specification on Toy Safety.” To obtain this publication, contact the ASTM at

CPSC has produced several useful resources regarding safety and toys based on age group, see: “Which Toy for Which Child Ages Birth to Five” at and “Which Toy for Which Child Ages Six through Twelve” at

New technologies have become smaller and smaller. Caregivers/teachers should be aware of items such as small computer components, batteries in talking books, mobile phones, portable music players, etc. that fall under item a) in the list of prohibited items. is a good resource for information on chemical contents in toys (4).

Center, Early Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
  1. Chowdhury, R. T., U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2008. Toy-related deaths and injuries, calendar year 2007. Washington, DC: CPSC.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. 2010. Policy statement: Prevention of choking among children. Pediatrics 125:601-7.
  3. Southern Daily Echo. 2009. Dr. John Heyworth from Southampton General Hospital warns about festive injuries.
  4. Chemicals of concern: Introduction.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2006. Gastrointestinal injuries from magnet ingestion in children — United States, 2003-2006. MMWR 55:1296-1300.