We’ve all been there: You’re out running errands with baby, and to keep him from going nuts in the grocery store, give him your keys or cell phone. But is it really safe to give baby certain everyday objects? We had experts give us the inside scoop on what baby shouldn’t be playing with.
Babies love the shininess and sounds of metal keys, but are they really okay for baby to fiddle with? Jeffrey Berkowitz, MD, a pediatrician at Pediatric Specialists of Plano in Texas, says nope. “Keys are made of brass, which may contain small amounts of lead,” he explains. “Additionally, keys can cause injury to the mouth if the child falls while he’s sucking on them.” Instead, stick to the plastic ones. They might not be as shiny, but at least baby can put them in his mouth without harming himself. Or if baby likes the cold feel of the metal in his mouth, try out these kleynimals (starting from $11, Kleynimals.com)—they’re non-toxic, eco-friendly and baby-safe.
2. TV Remotes
Baby might be intrigued by the remote control, especially because she sees how much the grown-ups grab for it. But you’ll want to keep it away from her. “Remote controls aren’t safe to play with,” Berkowitz says. “They contain batteries, which can be dangerous if ingested. Also, remote controls may have other small parts, which could break off and become a choking hazard.” Once baby is older than 18 months, it’s okay for her to play with a remote-control toy, like the Fisher-Price Sesame Street Silly Sounds Remote ($35, Amazon.com).
3. iPads and Other Tablets
Giving baby an iPad to play with might seem totally natural, especially with so many kid-friendly apps out there. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that, aside from video-chatting, babies under 18 months shouldn’t be exposed to screens, including tablets, smartphones and TVs. (Even for babies 18 months and older, the AAP advises parents to limit baby’s screentime to educational content like Sesame Street and PBS.) That’s because research has found that kids under 2 still learn best from unstructured, unplugged playtime, and a media overload can interfere with face-to-face interactions, physical activity and sleep. “Even though manufacturers come out with great, colorful apps for kids, they’re not designed for a baby or a small child to play with on his own—they’re designed for parents and babies to play with together,” says Monica Vila, founder of TheOnlineMom.com, a website that educates parents about healthy digital consumption. Plus, electronic tablets have glass screens and batteries with electrical charges. “It wouldn’t take a lot for a baby to bite it or drop it, and batteries or liquids inside of the tablet can come out,” Vila says. “Those aren’t safe for eating.”
4. Cell Phones
Have you seen those news reports that say cell phones have traces of poop on them? (Gross!) Knowing that cell phones are riddled with germs is probably reason enough not to let baby touch your phone or put it in her mouth. “These phones that might be covered with germs could cause serious illness,” Berkowitz says. Also, like remotes and iPads, cell phones contain batteries and other small parts, which aren’t safe for baby if she puts them in her mouth. Instead, get baby a toy cell phone—there are plenty that are much more kid-friendly and a lot more fun than a grown-up phone. Try the Playskool Sesame Street Smartphone ($10, Amazon.com).
Baby might come across your jar of loose change and want to rattle it or play with the shiny things inside, but don’t let him. “Coins are a choking hazard and can cause tracheal, esophageal or intestinal obstruction,” Berkowitz says. So not worth the risk. Make sure there aren’t any coins lying around the house or car where baby might reach them. Instead, point baby in the direction of the Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Piggy Bank ($15, Buybuybaby.com), which comes complete with plastic coins.
6. Pens, Markers and Crayons
Maybe you and baby are doing a crafts project or you’re showing baby how to draw. “Most markers and pens are nontoxic but can cause injury if the child pokes themselves with it,” Berkowitz says. If baby puts the pen cap or crayon in her mouth, she could choke. Also, for the sake of your home decor, keep baby away from them—marker, crayon and pen marks all over your walls and floor won’t be a pretty sight. You should hold off on letting baby use crayons and markers until she’s a toddler, and even then they call for supervision. When it’s time for your tot to use markers and crayons, look for nontoxic and washable ones, like the My First Crayola Easy Grip Washable Markers ($6, Crayola.com).
7. Baby Wipes
While he’s on the changing table, baby may grabs at the wipes and even stuff them in his mouth (sound familiar?). While it’s tempting to just let him—especially if that’s the only way he’ll quit wiggling—experts say don’t. “It’s not wise to allow baby to suck on wipes, because he could ingest the chemicals in them,” Berkowitz says. “Also, if baby chews or tears pieces of the wipes off, it could result in a choking hazard.” To distract baby while he’s getting his diaper changed, keep a teething ring or other age-appropriate toys nearby. One to try is the Lamaze Fifi the Firely ($16, Tomy.com).
Updated October 2017