NEWS

Tips for Buying Toys Safely Amid Potential Holiday Shortages

Child shopping with father

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Key Takeaways

  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released safety tips for shoppers in the wake of potential toy shortages.
  • Experts note that deals and discounts will probably not be available as in years past, and advise parents to approach wishlists with flexibility.
  • Shopping early and shopping online may give you a greater chance of finding the items you want to buy.

As parents and caregivers nationwide prepare for the holidays, they will have more to consider than just their kids’ wish lists. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to supply chain shortages in a number of areas, and the toy industry is no exception. This lack of supply, however, has not lessened the necessity of toy safety—both for shoppers and children.

During the holiday season, toy safety includes the safety standards of individual toys as well as general guidelines to keep shoppers safe.


The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recently released safety tips for holiday shoppers, in light of potential shortages. The CPSC and experts can help parents understand what to look for with toy purchases to keep their children safe.

Toy Safety

According to the CPSC, last year, children ages 14 and under experienced almost 150,000 toy-related, ER-treated injuries. The main cause of injury and death was choking on small toy parts. Other hazards include tumbling off of scooters, swallowing magnets that can cause internal damage, and splinters from wooden items. Even small batteries can pose a threat, if swallowed. With younger children, those hazards can be intensified because of the way they play with toys.

Kristine Cieslak, MD, the section chief for the pediatric emergency department at Lurie Children’s at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, explains that even if a toy does not appear hazardous, young children should be supervised as such anyways.

“I think parents can assume their kids under 3 years of age will put everything in their mouths," says Dr. Cieslak. "They’re going to explore. They’re going to find that little weakness in the toy. I can guarantee it. We may not be able to find it, but kids can.

Dr. Cieslak advises gift-givers to rub their hand over toy surfaces and even interact with the toy a bit before giving it to a little child.

Nikki Fleming, CPSC

Follow the age guidance and other safety information on the toy packaging. Choose toys that match your child’s abilities. Some toys may be appealing to children, but the toy may not be appropriate developmentally.

— Nikki Fleming, CPSC


Nikki Fleming, the spokesperson for CPSC, notes that reading labels on toys is critical. “Follow the age guidance and other safety information on the toy packaging," Fleming says. "Choose toys that match your child’s abilities. Some toys may be appealing to children, but the toy may not be appropriate developmentally."

More Toy Safety Tips

  • Take note of safety warnings and labels provided on packaging.
  • Purchase all appropriate safety gear with the item, such as helmets for riding toys. Make sure the gear fits properly.
  • Keep deflated balloons away from children who are younger than 8 years old. Get rid of balloons that have deflated immediately.
  • Check for recalls on items before purchasing. You can sign up to be notified of recalls at www.cpsc.gov.
  • Playsafe.org also includes toy safety tips and a guide to buying toys safely.

Safely Shopping Amidst Shortages

Once you’ve done your research to find a safe, age-appropriate toy, getting your hands on one may be challenging, though. Almost every aspect of the supply chain disruption has been upended—companies don't have the containers they need on ships, personnel aren't available to drive or unload trucks, and more.

“Across the board, we are seeing unprecedented breaks in the supply chain," states Adrienne Appell, the senior vice president of Marketing Communications at The Toy Association. "What this means for families is, we’re just really advising everybody to shop early this holiday season."

Presently store shelves have inventory in place. However, they may not receive shipments to replenish the supply mid-season, as they have in years past. Items may be available, but selection may be limited.

Shoppers accustomed to waiting until the last minute to bargain hunt and find a deal may find themselves out of luck. “Because of inventory issues, you’re not likely to see any type of markdowns or very, very limited sales," Appell notes. "So those who are kind of waiting to get the better deals, those deals are probably not coming this year."

Parents and caregivers need to exercise patience, while kids may learn a lesson in flexibility.

Getting the Real Deal

Shopping early is experts’ rallying cry for this year’s gift-buying season. They also advise shopping online as a way to avoid store crowds and perhaps find a greater selection of available items. Just make sure you take the appropriate precautions.

Adrienne Appell

You just need to make sure when you’re on a website, you know who you’re buying from. If a deal seems too good to be true, chances are it probably is, and that potentially could be a counterfeit product.

— Adrienne Appell

“You just need to make sure when you’re on a website, you know who you’re buying from," Appell advises. "If a deal seems too good to be true, chances are it probably is, and that potentially could be a counterfeit product."

The CPSC recommends closely examining the product and its packaging. Look for the manufacturer’s label and a certification mark showing the item has been tested and independently verified.

Despite the risk of not getting the top item on a child’s wish list, experts note it’s more important to get an item that is safe, age-appropriate, and authentic. “I would definitely advise them to choose quality over quantity,” Dr. Cieslak concludes.

What This Means For You

Putting a smile on your child’s face this holiday season is a high priority. But even more critical is ensuring the toy your child receives is safe and developmentally appropriate. Approach your shopping list with flexibility, knowing that your little one will love what they receive because it came from you.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries: Calendar Year 2020.

  2. Association for Supply Chain Management. 2021 Disruption Report.

  3. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Top safety tips for early holiday shoppers amid reports of expected toy shortage.

By LaKeisha Fleming
LaKeisha Fleming is a prolific writer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of formats, from film and television scripts, to magazines articles and digital content. She has written for CNN, Tyler Perry Studios, Motherly, Atlanta Parent Magazine, Fayette Woman Magazine, and numerous others. She is passionate about parenting and family, as well as destigmatizing mental health issues. Her book, There Is No Heartbeat: From Miscarriage to Depression to Hope, is authentic, transparent, and providing hope to many.Visit her website at www.lakeishafleming.com.