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Choosing toys

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Toys and play are important for your child’s development.
  • Good toys teach your child new skills, keep them engaged and are well made.
  • Toys should meet Australian safety standards.
  • You should make sure that your child’s toys are age appropriate, with no long strings or small parts.

Why are toys important?

Playing with toys is important for your child’s physical and mental development. You should choose toys wisely — the most expensive toys are not necessarily the best or safest.

What is a good toy?

You can choose from a variety of toys for your child, such as:

  • soft toys, dolls and action figures
  • puzzles and building blocks
  • musical toys like maracas and xylophones
  • art and craft toys
  • toys that can be used for different kinds of play (open ended toys) like cardboard boxes

Good toys should be exciting and well made, so they last a long time and don’t break easily.

Good toys should help encourage your child to:

  • talk and develop social skills
  • be creative and use their imagination
  • move and develop physical skills
  • understand the world around them

A good toy must also be safe for your child to play with.

What is a safe toy?

Toys should have labels with a recommended age range. For example, a toy with choking hazards may be recommended for children aged over 3 years.

All toys should meet the Australian Safety Standard AS/NZS 8124.Toys can cut, choke, poison or strangle if they are not safe, or not used safely.

Some things to consider when choosing toys are their:

  • size and shape
  • materials and fillings
  • strings
  • batteries

Size and shape

The smaller your child, the bigger the toy should be. Toys with small parts are dangerous for babies and young children.

This is because young babies explore their world by putting things in their:

Children under 3 years do not have a well-developed cough reflex. This means that they can choke easily on small items. 

A child under 3 years should not play with toys that :

  • are the size of a ping-pong ball or smaller
  • can easily break into small parts
  • are made of foam, as they can bite off chunks which can cause choking

Be careful of toys that can break easily. Small, broken pieces can be a choking hazard. Broken pieces may also be sharp and can injure your child.

Materials and fillings

Check that any paint or fillings used on or inside toys aren't toxic. Children could be poisoned if they lick or swallow them.

Check that soft toys:

  • are fire resistant
  • have a filling that can't come out easily and cause a child to choke

Regularly make sure that parts of soft toys are attached properly, such as: 

  • eyes
  • noses
  • buttons


Batteries should not be handled by children. They are toxic if swallowed, and they can cause choking.

If a toy uses batteries, particularly small ‘button’ or ‘coin’ batteries, check that they:

  • are secure within their compartment
  • cannot come out easily


Strings or tails on toys that can form a loop might constrict your child’s:

  • finger
  • limb
  • neck

Getting tangled can cut off a child's circulation or cause strangulation. Strings should not be longer that 22cm.


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

Where can I buy toys?

You can get toys by:

  • buying them new from toy stores and department stores
  • borrowing or swapping them with friends, family, playgroups or toy libraries
  • buying them second-hand from fairs, garage sales and online
  • making your own

If you get a second-hand toy for your child, make sure it is safe. Older toys are more likely to break. They also may not be packaged. This means you may not have access to important safety information about the toy.

Do not buy or use second-hand toys with flaking paint.

Tips for buying toys

Ask yourself these questions before you buy toys for your child:

  • Would it be fun to play with?
  • Would it help my child’s development?
  • Is it suited to the age of my child?
  • Is it well made?
  • Does it have any small parts?
  • Is it made with any toxic materials?

Resources and support

For more information on choosing toys, you can visit:

You may consider taking your child to a playgroup, where they will have access to the right toys. Visit the Playgroup Australia website to find a playgroup near you.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023

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