Creating a safe play environment for your little one is vital. You need to consider both the toys you offer your baby, as well as the space in which they play.
Safe indoor play
Babies are naturally curious and love to explore. And once they've mastered the art of rolling, they're on the go! Have you ever ducked to the kitchen for a few seconds, only to return and find your baby has rolled from one side of the living room to the other? So it's important to define your indoor play space from early on.
Keep your indoor play area free of furniture that has sharp edges or is made of glass; ensure electricity cords are out of reach and sight; and be aware that blinds with hanging cords are a strangulation hazard. Baby gates are a safe way to define the play area, and a playpen may be useful when you need to tend to another child or go to the bathroom.
The cot can also be a safe play space if you select appropriate toys for your baby to use there. Whenever your child is asleep – both during the day and at night – their cot should be free of loose toys. Mobiles are a safe choice until your baby can reach them, as are interactive toys that attach securely to the sides of the cot. If your older baby likes looking at board books before sleep, remove them from the cot as soon as they're snoozing.
Toys for babies should be age-appropriate (read the packaging carefully before purchase), have no sharp edges or small parts, and made from non-toxic materials. Buy toys that comply with the Australian Toy Standard (AS/NZ8124), and avoid cheap, low-quality toys from discount stores.
Your baby should have separate toys to their older siblings. Ensure your older children store all toys that aren't baby-safe up high, and when you visit friends with big kids, scan the floor and low shelves for potentially dangerous toys.
The size of the toys you choose is perhaps the most important safety consideration. Toys with small parts are choking hazards, because babies put anything and everything in their mouths.
These toys should be avoided: marbles, buttons, play or real coins, beads, small puzzle pieces, game counters, dress-up jewellery, loom bands, marbles, small magnets, toys with suction cups (like darts), Lego pieces, stationery meant for older children (pens, scissors, staplers, stickers), pointy toys like wands, and deflated balloons. Be vigilant! Small magnets and button batteries can cause life-threatening internal injuries if swallowed.
Do a regular safety check of your baby's toy basket. Look for toys that are broken or have pieces missing, loose batteries, soft toys with eyes hanging by a thread, or toys that need a good wash! As all babies mouth toys, disinfect your child's toys after playdates.
Safe outdoor play
It's lovely to play outside – take a basket of toys into the garden and enjoy some fresh air. Just don't leave your mobile baby alone because leaves, gumnuts and pot-plant pebbles are choking hazards.
Playing on a soft surface like a rug, grass or foam matting is preferable to hard surfaces – especially for crawlers and early walkers who constantly stumble.
For mobile bubs, safe outdoor choices include large, lightweight balls, ride-on vehicles, and mini trampolines. In warm weather, fill a large plastic bowl with water, bath toys and a plastic jug for water play. Children can drown even in shallow water, so never leave them unsupervised during this activity.