How to tell if a toy is a safe size for a baby or toddler

How to tell if a toy is a safe size for a baby or toddler

If you are reading this article you are likely well aware that babies and toddlers love to explore EVERYTHING with their mouths. Because of this, it is important that they have safe toys to play with. 

There are many factors to consider when determining if a toy is safe for a child under the age of three.  In this article we will be going over the size of the toy to determine if it is safe for a baby or young toddler. See the end of the article for a list of other things you need to consider when determining if something is safe for your child.  

As both a toy designer, and a dad of 6 kids, I have spent a lot of time researching toy safety and am happy to share some of what I have learned.  Feel free to ask questions below as well.  You can check out the Brushing Buddy and Chewy Buckle toys I have designed.

What size toy is safe for babies? 

To answer this question we need to consider both the overall size of the toy, but also the size of any part that might easily come off of the toy.  


What is a small part? 

In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC sets the general standards that toys need to meet in order to be considered safe.  You can read their guidance on small parts for toys here. These guidelines are similar around the world.  

They consider a small part to be anything that is less than 1.25 inches in diameter and less than 2.25 inches long while meeting the following criteria:

  1. “A whole toy or article
  2. A Separate part of a toy, game, or other article
  3. A piece of a toy or article that breaks off during testing that simulates use or abuse by children”

The standard test used by the CPSC to determine choking safety is this little device pictured below.  If a toy or object fits completely inside this unit without anything sticking out, it is considered unsafe.  


You can get your own official safety tool here if you are interested, but we also have a fun solution that you can make at home on your own in seconds.  

How to make a choking hazard test device at home

Next time you run out of toilet paper (and I hope you have an easily accessible replacement roll at arms reach🧻) don’t throw out the empty paper roll.  Instead, cut off about 1/3rd of it and use it the same way you would use an official toy testing device.  It will be a bit larger than the official testing kit, but as a dad myself I feel much better about being a little more cautious than I need to be rather than less cautious when it comes to choking hazards.  

Here is a video showing my son and I as we test out a few different things.  Be sure to also consider the manufacturer's recommended age, and consider how easy the toy is to break and what size the parts would be when broken.   If the manufacturer made it for use with kids under three the packaging should say it is safe for babies.  

@snoofybee Is that toy safe for my baby? #toysafety #babyproofing #toyhacks #dadlife #snoofybee ♬ Cute EDM(1033122) - みずいろK

Are action figures safe for babies?

Many action figures are large when put together, but have small parts that can be pulled apart quite easily.  For that reason, unless they are made of one solid piece of baby safe material, or unless the moving parts are extremely well built and specifically stated to be made for small children or babies, I would avoid giving action figures to young children.  

Are balloons safe for toddlers?  Are balloons safe for babies? 

Balloons of course are plenty large when blown up but they pop easily and the thin material can easily block airways and is difficult to remove.  

The CPSC warns that:

“Of all children's products, balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death, according to CPSC injury data. Accidents involving balloons tend to occur in two ways. Some children have sucked uninflated balloons into their mouths, often while attempting to inflate them… 

The second kind of accident involves balloon pieces. Children have drawn pieces of broken balloons that they were playing with into their throats.”

For these reasons they warn that children under the age of 8 should never play with balloons unsupervised.

Be sure to scan for any balloon pieces in yards or play areas after birthday parties or events where balloons are used.  

Is this toy safe for my baby?

We have more to say in future articles about toy safety but for now here are a few other things to consider:

What are the materials and coatings of the object? 

Does it have batteries?  If so, how are the batteries enclosed?  (note, if the battery compartment opens without the use of tools it shouldn’t be given to your child) 

What condition is the toy in?

Do not not give the item to the child if the answer is yes to any of the below questions: 

Are any exposed materials toxic?


Does the material easily rip, crumble, break, or come apart?


Are there any sharp objects or points?  

Could moving parts pinch skin or injure fingers? 


Does the product contain magnets that could easily come free?

Does the toy have any long strings, ropes, or  flexible parts that could become a choking or strangulation hazard or that could wrap around a finger or limb to cut off circulation?

Does the toy have smaller parts that can easily break off or be pulled apart? 


Does the toy have any loose packaging or tags that could become a choking hazard? 


Stay safe and enjoy this time with your little one.  As a dad with my oldest who is 19 and my youngest who is 3, I can attest that the saying is true:  They grow up SO FAST!!!


-Mike Perry, Dad of 6 kids and part owner of SnoofyBee LLC

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