Small Parts: What Parents Need to Know

Small parts and small children can be a deadly combination. To prevent young children from choking, children’s toys and games, as well as balloons, have warning labels. These labels help you keep small things away from your little ones.

But what are small parts? And why should parents be concerned about them?

First, this is a small parts tester:

small parts tester

Two fingers fit inside a small parts tester

The cylinder is 2.25 inches long by 1.25 inches wide. That’s about the size of a 3-year-old’s throat. The opening is slightly wider than a quarter or about the width of two fingers:

Note: Some parents use a toilet paper roll as a practical alternative to a small parts tester.  Parents should be aware that the toilet paper roll is wider and longer than the official tester.

If a toy or a piece of a toy intended for a child younger than 3 fits fully into the cylinder, that toy is banned. This federal law has been around for decades and has helped prevent children from choking on products.  Small parts can get stuck in a child’s throat and be deadly.

In 2010, 9 of the17 toy-related deaths were associated with young children swallowing balloons, small balls and parts of toys or games. From reports that provided details, we know that some of those deaths were from items that fit into the tester. High-powered magnets that we wrote about earlier this month fit in there, too, as do button batteries that power musical holiday cards, remote controls, flashlights and other products in many homes.

Toys and games intended for children ages 3 to 6 that have small parts must have a warning label. This holiday season, as you buy presents for the young children on your list, look closely for warning labels like this:

Warning Label: Choking Hazard - Small Parts not for children under 3 years old

Be mindful that age labels on toys are not just based on your children’s smarts, but are also for their safety.

If a toy warns that it’s not for children younger than 3, then really, that toy is NOT safe for young children. If your younger child has older siblings around, make sure that big sister or brother’s toys and toy parts are out of reach at all times.

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