- Select toys and materials with safety in mind.
- Check the condition of toys and materials for safety.
- Perform a daily safety check of toys and materials.
- Teach children how to use materials and toys safely.
In the previous lesson, you learned about designing a safe environment. Now it’s time to think about the materials you provide in the environment.
Let’s begin by thinking about how you choose the items you use every day in your home. Think about your vehicle, your child’s crib, or your bicycle helmet. How did you choose which models or brands to buy? Likely, you did some research before purchasing these items. You wanted to make sure these items were durable and safe for you and your family.
Next, think about how you use the items in your home. Do you put knives in the dishwasher with the sharp side down? Do you point the handles on pots and pans toward the back of the stove? Do you blow out candles when you leave the room? Do you get rid of dishes when they chip or break? These are all things we do to ensure our safety and the safety of our families.
Finally, think about the ways you ensure items in your home are still safe to use. As adults, we look for signs of wear and tear in our belongings. We replace or repair those broken dishes; we don’t serve our families on plates with sharp edges. We also watch for news that our possessions may be unsafe. In 2007, hundreds of thousands of families were affected by a massive toy recall due to the use of lead-based paint. This incident brought to light the importance of carefully thinking about the toys we provide for young children.
As a teacher or caregiver, you have the responsibility of making sure children are safe in your care. Just as you make safety a priority at home, you must think of safety when you choose, use, and check items in the preschool program.
What do safe toys and materials look like for preschool children? How do you know if a toy is safe? Read this section to learn more about choosing, using, and checking toys.
Choosing Toys and Materials for Preschool Children
When choosing toys for preschool children, there is a lot to think about. Watch this video to learn more.
Make sure all materials in the classroom, including plants, are nontoxic. Check with your local gardening store for a list of toxic plants. You can also check with your local poison control center (1-800-222-1222). Before including pets in your program, read the Pets in Early Childhood Settings resource at the end of the Learn section.
Using Toys and Materials Safely with Preschool Children
Once you have chosen toys and materials, you must be sure to use them safely. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are area rugs secure so children will not trip?
- Are art easels secure? Are all hinges covered so children will not pinch fingers?
- Are materials like scissors and sharp pencils stored with the sharp sides pointing down?
- Are safety goggles, where required, available and in good condition?
- Are any heating devices (cooking equipment, etc.) stored out of reach?
Checking Toys and Materials for Preschool Children
Before allowing children to play with materials, you should check the condition of the materials. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are rugs in good condition and free of frayed edges?
- Are shelves in good condition and free of splinters, sharp edges or other damage?
- Are chairs and tables in good condition and free of splinters, sharp edges or other damage?
- Are musical instruments in good condition? Look for splintering wood or shakers that may come apart to release small, unsafe objects.
- Are all toys sturdy and in good condition? Check wooden ramps or other objects for signs of weakness.
- As toys are used, have wooden edges become rough or splintered? Have pieces of metal snagged or warped? Have any plastic or glass pieces splintered? If any of these answers are yes, the toy or object is unsafe and should be replaced or removed.
- Are electrical cords in poor condition (fraying) or secured unsafely? Are some electronic objects in poor working order?
If any of your materials are damaged, they should be removed from the classroom and replaced.
To keep children safe, you must do a daily safety check. Ask yourself the questions listed in the resource at the end of the Learn section. In addition, remember these ideas:
- Choose toys and materials with children’s safety in mind.
- Use toys safely. Teach children how to be safe. Supervise their play carefully.
- Check toys and materials daily. Use your daily safety checklist to inspect toys and materials.
- Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website for product recalls.
Watch these videos to learn more about performing a safety check in your program:
What should you do if you decide a material or environment is unsafe? Make note of any potentially unsafe situations on your daily safety checklist. Remove or replace the unsafe item. If the unsafe situation is related to facilities or equipment, immediately make a report to your director.
Be sure to listen for news of product recalls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission keeps a database of product recalls. Visit www.saferproducts.gov to see lists of recalled products.
Remember, do not allow children to play with or on unsafe materials or equipment. It truly is better to be safe than sorry.
Use your knowledge of toy safety and child development to evaluate toys. Read and review the Choose or Lose Activity. Do you think these toys would be safe in your classroom? Why or why not? Write your answers, and then discuss them with a coach, trainer, or administrator. Then, compare your answers to the suggested responses.
Review the Think Toy Safety brochure below from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Then review your classroom carefully using the Checking for Safety: Toys and Materials resource below. Walk around the room with a coworker or coach. Discuss the safety features of the materials in your classroom. Talk about what to do if you find an item in your classroom that is unsafe.
American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. (2019). Caring for our children: National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs. (4th ed.). American Academy of Pediatrics. https://ncrkids.org/CFOF
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. (n.d.). Safer Products. https://www.saferproducts.gov
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (2012). Think toy safety. Washington, DC: Consumer Product Safety Commission. https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/281%281%29.pdf