To reduce the risk of children injuring themselves by choking while playing with a toy, children’s toys must be of a specified size and contain no small parts that break off easily. The rules apply to toys manufactured, designed, labelled or marketed for use by children up to and including 36 months of age.

What is the product safety standard for children's toys?

The Product Safety Standards (Children's Toys) Regulations 2005 (Regulations) sets that safety standard.

AS/NZS ISO 8124.1:2002 Safety of toys – Part 1: Safety aspects related to mechanical and physical properties with amendments as the official product safety standard that suppliers of children's toys must comply with.

What toys are covered by the rules?

The rules apply to toys manufactured, designed, labelled or marketed for use by children up to and including 36 months of age.

A toy is defined in the Regulations as any object manufactured, designed, labelled or marketed as a plaything for use in learning or play by a child; and includes

  • rattles, dummies, teethers, squeeze toys
  • toys that come attached to a crib, stroller, play-pen or baby carriage
  • push and pull toys, pounding toys, blocks and stacking toys, toys for use in baths, wading pools and sand
  • rocking, spring and stick horses or other figures
  • musical chime toys, jacks-in-the-box, stuffed, plush or flocked animals and other figures
  • games and puzzles
  • dolls
  • toy cars and trucks.

The following objects are excluded:

  • balloons
  • bicycles with a wheel base smaller than 640mm
  • books and other items made of paper
  • cassette tapes, compact discs, DVDs and records
  • dummies and pacifiers (other than toy dummies and toy pacifiers)
  • paints, paint brushes and other painting tools
  • flotation aid toys for use in water
  • marbles
  • modelling materials including clay, plasticine and playdough
  • playground equipment for parks, schools and domestic use, eg, swings, seesaws, slides, sand pits, sliding poles and ladders
  • toys made solely from porous material such as cheesecloth
  • writing materials including crayons, chalk, pencils and pens.

Unassembled toys that when put together by an adult who follows the supplied written instructions will meet the requirements set out in the product safety standard are also excluded.

How can I tell if the toy is designed for use by children up to and including 36 months of age?

Ask yourself, does this toy have characteristics that make it appealing for a child up to 36 months to play with?

For a general guide, if a child is:

  • physically capable of using the toy as it is intended to be used
  • intellectually capable of using the toy as it is intended to be used
  • interested in playing with the toy

then the toy is likely to be within the scope of the product safety standard.

Who do the rules apply to?

If you are in trade and supply, offer to supply or advertise to supply new or second-hand toys, you must comply with the product safety standard.

This includes:

  • the sale of toys
  • 'give-aways' such as prizes at side-show stalls
  • toys which are gifts when buying other goods
  • toys given away in breakfast cereal packets.
  • toys sold through internet retail or auction sites - this includes any person in trade supplying second-hand toys.

The rules do not apply to private sellers of second-hand toys.

What are the rules?

The standard states children's toys must not be small enough, or have parts that are small enough for a child to swallow. Toys must not:

  • be of a size that creates a hazard if swallowed or inhaled
  • have small parts designed to be removed from the toy that will create a hazard if swallowed or inhaled
  • have pieces that can break off during normal use or when children play with the toy in a destructive manner that will create a hazard if swallowed or inhaled.

The standard provides guidance on testing the likely use or abuse a child will place on toys. This is to check that no part of the toy will come off that may be a potentially dangerous choking hazard. The tests are designed to simulate normal playing with a toy that:

  • fits with the toy's instructions for use
  • has been established for that type of toy by tradition or custom
  • is evident from the toy's appearance.

The 'foreseeable abuse' tests are designed to simulate conditions where abuse conditions could occur. For example, a child drops a toy because they are not yet able to grip and hold onto it.

What size can create a choking hazard?

The standard provides information and dimensions for a cylinder to measure whether toys or toy parts are too small. If a toy, or a part of a toy, can fit entirely into the cylinder without compressing it, then it is too small and does not meet the standard.

Labels cannot be used to avoid following the rules

If a toy has characteristics that make it appealing for a child up to 36 months to play with, you cannot avoid the rules by labelling the toy as ‘Not for children under 36 months of age’.

For example, if you place a label on a baby's rattle stating 'Not for children under 36 months of age', the rattle must still comply with the standard as it is a toy clearly designed to be used by an infant.

Children’s toys must not contain lead

Any toys containing lead, including toys with lead paint, are banned under an Unsafe Goods Notice.

Who is responsible for making sure the toys I supply are safe?

It is your responsibility to ensure the toys you supply are safe. You should not assume the toyscomplies with the product safety standard simply because a supplier has offered to supply it to you. If you have any concern about the safety of the toys you have for sale, do not sell them.

The best way to ensure that a toy complies with the standard is to check with your supplier that the toy has passed the tests set out in the standard or have the toy tested yourself.

If you sell a non-compliant toy, it could place a child at risk of injury . You will also have breached the Fair Trading Act. It is an offence under section 30 of the Fair Trading Act to supply, offer to supply or advertise to supply toys for children up to 36 months of age that do not comply.

We enforce the Fair Trading Act, and may take a prosecution against you in Court if you breach the standard. Companies can be fined up to $600,000 for each breach of the Act. Individuals can be fined up to $200,000.

You may also have to conduct a recall of any toys that you supply which do not comply with the standard . Information on carrying out a product recall is available from the Consumer Protection website.

Read more about selling children's toys, or go to the Standards New Zealand website to buy the standard.

Who sets the product safety standards?

The product safety standards are set by Standards NZ or equivalent overseas agencies. You can purchase a copy of any of the standards from Standards New Zealand by calling 0800 782 632 or visit www.standards.govt.nz. You can access the Regulations and the Fair Trading Act online at the government’s legislation website www.legislation.govt.nz. The information on this website is free.