How to make sure the toys you buy online are safe for your child

Buying from online sellers on platforms like Amazon and eBay is becoming increasingly commonplace.

In fact, according to a Populus survey for Which? nine in 10 people in the UK have bought a consumer good from an online marketplace.

But how do we know what we are buying is safe?

This question becomes even more urgent when buying toys for children online. 

A 2019 survey by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) found that 74% of parents bought their children’s toys online. 

But worryingly, a new report by the BTHA found that more than half of toys purchased from three of the largest online platforms that operate in the UK were unsafe for a child to play with. 

The report included results from two studies that tested 300 toys in total.

In the original test, 200 toys were purchased. Of the toys bought from third-party sellers, 58% were illegal to sell in the UK and 22% were deemed unsafe. 

Over the two studies, a combined average of 67% of toys failed to comply with the basic UK safety requirements and 35% were unsafe for children to play with and could choke, strangle, burn, poison or electrocute them.

All the toys that were noncompliant with the Toy Safety Directive came from third-party sellers.

While the BTHA is launching an initiative calling for the government to urgently change the law surrounding the sale of children’s toys via online marketplaces, parents need to do what they can to make sure the toys they purchase online are safe for their toddlers.

Here are some steps parents can take to ensure any new toys are safe, according to experts from the Royal Association of the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the BTHA.

Check for accreditation 

There are certain symbols and markings that can discern the definitely-safe toys from the not-so-safe toys.

These include the CE symbol, the UKCA mark and the BTHA lion mark.

Follow age restrictions 

Age restrictions on toys are important. Accidents can occur when toys meant for older children are played with by babies.

Some toys can be labelled incorrectly, of course – the BTHA study found small parts that could be a choking hazard for young children were incorrectly labelled as safe for under 3 years – so it’s important to make sure the toy is suitable for your child’s age range.

‘Toys must be safe by law, but how they are used and the age of the child are important factors in preventing accidents,’ Ashley Martin, Public Health Adviser at RoSPA says. 

Do some research

Since toys sold online can be mislabelled, it’s important to do some research before purchasing a new toy for your child.

Guidance from the BTHA advises you ‘search for the company or brand that makes the toy or character you want to buy and then include the company name when you search the online marketplace,’ to make sure you’re getting the legit toy.

It’s also important to know what kind of toys are best for your child’s age range.

Check reviews

One great thing about online marketplaces is the thousands of reviews attached to most products. 

Reviews are often a good indicator of whether or not a toy is child-friendly.

However, make sure to look beyond the initial rating, as some reviews can be fake.

Read through the positive and negative reviews of the toy your buying and the previous toys the seller has sold to make sure it all lines up.

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