The following advice is provided by the Australian Toy Association.
Federal and State Governments and Toys and Safety Toys are closely monitored and highly regulated by the Federal and all State Governments. Safety standards for toys are established by Standards Australia, a Federal Government Commission and all participants in the industry are required to adhere to what, in the main, are voluntary standards.
The Australian Toy Association is represented on Toy Safety Committees of Standards Australia. However in a number of instances, in particular in those parts of the Standards relating to toys for children under three, State Governments and the Federal Government have enacted Regulations to make mandatory those parts.
Virtually all toy packages include suggested ages for use. The child's chronological age, physical size, skill level and maturity, as well as safety, are taken into consideration in developing age labels for different types of toys.
In order to help manufacturers achieve a greater degree of consistency in age grading practices and age labelling toy packages, a set of age grading guidelines has been included in AS/NZ 8124. Because children develop at different rates and vary in their interests and skills, package age labelling is intended to give the consumer a general guideline upon which to base toy selections. Typical designations might be "Recommended for children from eighteen months to three years" or "Not recommended for children under three years of age."
However, there is no substitute, at any age for appropriate adult supervision.
Specific labelling requirements imposed by AS/NZ 8124 cover such products as crib gyms, electrically-operated toys, chemistry sets, swim-aids and such toy features as functional points and edges (paper doll scissors and toy sewing kits needles, for example). Cautionary labels must be bold, legible and conspicuous, and printed in contrasting colour. Should a manufacturer misrepresent compliance with AS/NZ 8124 the company is subject to prosecution.
Major toy-consuming nations like USA, Japan, Germany, England and France have their own toy safety standards, most with regulations very similar to the Australian voluntary and mandatory standards.
The twelve-member European Community, under the regulations mandating Community-wide standards by 1992 (EC-92), promulgated a toy safety directive called EN-71.
The Geneva-based International Standards Organisation (ISO) has for many years attempted to establish an international toy safety standard. The International Toy Standard ISO 8124-1 was finally published mid-2000. Steps are underway to have this standard "adopted" in all countries in order to achieve a consistent approach.
10 things you should know before buying a toy.
Reprinted with permission from the Australian Toy Association, http://www.austoy.com.au