This advice is designed to provide basic guidance. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law.
Toys are governed by strict regulations to protect young children from danger such as choking; however the situation with Christmas novelties is very different?
Christmas decorations have come a long way from the traditional paper chains and glass balls. Look in any garden centre, DIY shop, supermarket, let alone Christmas shop on a short term let and you’ll find a huge range of goods that look like toys, are as attractive to children as toys but aren’t toys. And often nowhere near as safe as toys.
A toy must comply with the Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011, however decorative objects for festivities and celebrations e.g. Christmas Decorations, are exempt, and do not have to satisfy the essential safety requirements, or carry a CE mark. Soft-filled toys with simple features intended for holding and cuddling are considered a toy intended or children under 36 months, therefore it is not possible for producers of soft-filled toys to simply apply an age warning. They must ensure the toy complies with all physical & mechanical requirements, specified in the European Standard for toy safety, EN71.
Novelty items are however caught by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, which stipulates, that any item which is attractive to a child, and could foreseeably be used in play, must satisfy the appropriate standard(s), which in this case is EN71 (safety of toys). Put simply, it should not present a safety hazard to users or third parties when used as intended.
Children under 36 months are at greatest risk, as the most common problem is the item having parts a child could easily pull off, put in its mouth and therefore pose a risk of choking.
If a novelty item has small components which detach at forces below those detailed in the standard (EN71), and fit inside the small parts cylinder (shown below), they must carry a warning statement such as “WARNING: Not to be given to a child under 36 months - small parts choking hazard”, but are not required to comply with any physical and mechanical requirements, unlike the soft-filled toys mentioned above.
Warnings that items are:
“purely for decoration” and
“should not be given to children/used as toys”
are often very small and can easily be missed, or become detached, therefore warnings should be:
preferably sewn-in for durability.
Example of a warning label often found attached to a Christmas novelty.
Spotting a potential hazard?
Any Christmas novelty item that has small parts, such as buttons, bead etc, which could easily detach are not suitable for children and should be kept out of reach.
Manufactures of Christmas novelties are only required to label novelties items which contain small parts, as opposed to making them physically safe.
If you’re shopping for decorations and are expecting young children in the house, check the labels before you buy or hang them.