As a parent, you may cringe every time you walk into your child's daycare and see another child with a toy in his mouth or rolling a toy along on the floor. It's difficult to know what the true toy safety issues are, and what is just your mommy cleanliness compulsion. To find out specifically what your daycare's rules are in regard to toy safety, speak to the daycare director or your child's teacher, but in general there are a few things to look out for.
Toys in daycare, just like toys you keep at home, should always be age appropriate. Most toys, dolls and stuffed animals are labeled on their packaging as to what age they are meant for. For example, certain building blocks might be for ages 4 and up, as there are small parts that younger children could choke on. If this is the case, such blocks should not be in a toddler classroom, and should only be used with preschoolers. Even if you're sure your little darling is especially mature and advanced for his age, don't mess around with the age limits on toys. Even a genius 2 year old should only play with toys designed for 2 year olds.
Even toys that were originally meant for toddlers might become inappropriate for toddlers as time goes on. For example, after hard playing and repeated sanitizing, a toy truck might develop loose pieces or break so there is a sharp edge -- in which case, it's no longer okay for young children to play with. Even the sturdiest of toys can start to degrade after a 2 year old smashes it into the floor three or four hundred times. Toys should be inspected regularly by the daycare staff to ensure that they are in good repair, in one piece and safe. Toys for daycares should be sturdy and painted with non-toxic paint.
Cleanliness is extremely important for the safety of daycare toys. A toy should always be cleaned if a child puts it in her mouth, and toys should be cleaned and sanitized regularly -- even more often if there is an outbreak of illness in the school or it's cold and flu season. If your child is a toddler, all toys in her classroom should be cleaned and sanitized daily; for preschoolers, this may be as infrequently as weekly. In addition to toys being cleaned, doorknobs and tables should be sanitized frequently, as germy little hands are frequently all over these areas.
Talking to Your Child's Daycare
Don't be afraid of coming off as pushy or clean compulsive when talking to staff at your child's daycare. Safety is extremely important for daycare toys, and you have a right to understand what the daycare's cleaning and toy maintenance schedule is for your tot's safety. Ask how toys are cleaned -- for instance, are they sanitized with a spray bleach solution, washed in a sink or cleaned in a dishwasher? How often are dolls and stuffed animals run through a washing machine? These are all valid questions, so don't be put off by vague answers or eye rolling.