What Age is This Toy For? How Age Grading Works in the Toy Industry

Have you ever picked up a toy at a store and wondered how the manufacturer came up with the 6+ age rating displayed in its lower corner? These age ratings are not just random. In fact, they are far from it. In the United States, there is a rigorous planning and testing process that goes into age grading in the toy industry. Below, we will look into the basics of this process so you can use those little numbers to best choose toys for your child in the future.



There are More Age Groups Than You Might Think

One of the most common age gradings is “for children 3 years of age and older,” but there are tons of groupings that have their own testing requirements:

  • Birth through 3
  • 4 through 7 months
  • 8 through 11 months
  • 12 through 18 months
  • 19 through 23 months
  • 2 years
  • 3 years
  • 4 through 5 years
  • 6 through 8 years
  • 9 through 12 years

Everything marked for and marketed toward these age groups needs to be appealing, developmentally appropriate, and safe for the months and years specified.

It All Starts with Child Development

When a company creates a new toy, it needs to appeal to the developmental stage they are advertising it for.

The following interest areas are considered in every toy that hits the market:

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Number of Parts
  • Interlocking vs. Loose Parts
  • Materials
  • Motor Skills Required
  • Color/Contrast
  • Cause and Effect
  • Sensory Elements
  • Level of Detail/Realism
  • Licensing
  • Classic
  • Robotics/Smart Features
  • Educational Value

Toy manufacturers also need to consider:

  • Physical Abilities
  • Cognitive Development
  • Emotional Development
  • Social Learning

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when a new toy is made. If it is designed for the youngest babies, it will likely be graded on color and contrast, ensuring that the shades chosen are ones that will attract young eyes from the start. If it is designed with the oldest children in mind, it will likely need to have a level of realism that can be appreciated as well as a high level of motor skills required, ensuring kids can challenge themselves and have fun with the item they choose to purchase.

Safety Is a Top Priority

Along with appealing to the age group, toys need to be safe for children within the selected range. The most stringent safety test toys undergo is related to the Small Parts Regulation. This law states that toys marked for children under three years old and younger cannot include choking hazards — including pieces that could break off through normal use or misuse and become a choking hazard.

Toys for this age range are tested in five fashions — impact, torque, tension, flexure, and compression. They need to hold up through a substantial number of drops, throws, bends, crushes, etc., to ensure they will be safe in the hands of little ones.

Toys for older children need to be tested for safety as well. In fact, everything that is marketed for children 12 years of age and younger is required to be third-party tested in a CPSC-approved laboratory.

You Can Use Age Ratings to Choose Toys for Your Children

With all of that said, it is clear that we can rely on age gradings while choosing toys for our children. When you purchase a toy rated for your child’s developmental age or younger, you can trust that it is safe for them to play with. You can also trust that it is likely going to line up with their interests and abilities, thanks to the extensive child development factors included in the testing process.

So, go ahead and use age grading while picking out toys for your child at any time. The strict guidelines are set to support you, after all. If your little one’s interests stray away from the toys that are known to be safe for them, just be sure you are around to supervise the playing sessions. We all want our kids to stay safe while they are having fun! Also, don’t be afraid to go up in age range and challenge your little one.