household items that are unsafe toys

Entertaining infants and toddlers demands a lot of creativity. They move from one plaything to another in minutes—which usually requires us to keep coming up with new ideas.

As parents, we can get exhausted and let them play with whatever they get their hands on. No judgments—I've been guilty of that, too! My boys were born long before I became a pediatrician, and back then I let them play with most items within reach.

But September is Baby Safety Month, an ideal time to think about what common household items are truly safe for your little ones to play with—and what's not.

While there are certainly more unsafe household items than one short list could cover, here's a list of 8 items your little one definitely shouldn't be playing with, the dangers they can cause and safer alternatives.

1. Thermometer

Why children are attracted: Some kids love to hold items that have been used on them. Some thermometers also have blinking and beeping effects that are irresistible for your curious one.

What's the danger: Anything that contains button batteries tops my list of things NOT to give your child. Button batteries are extremely dangerous if swallowed as they can burn the feeding and breathing tube in a short period of time. Most thermometers contain button batteries and when these batteries fall out, your child may put them in their mouth.

What to do: Take it away completely. It's not a play option. You can consider colorful pretend doctor kits, most of which contain thermometers.

2. The remote control

Why children are attracted: Kids are naturally attracted to what their parents or older siblings have or use most. And anything that makes stuff happen as if by magic is a big draw for curious little minds. My daughter's interest in the remote control increased when she noticed it could turn our television on and off.

What's the danger: Most remotes function with small lithium button batteries and are unsafe for the same reasons as a thermometer. Also, some remote controls have small parts and buttons that may fall apart—especially when chewed on—and could possibly be swallowed. Kids are smart, so with a few bangs on the floor, they can pretty much tear a remote control apart.

What to do: Get them a child-friendly remote control, preferably one that doesn't use button batteries.

3. Your keys

Why children are attracted: Keys are shiny and make exciting noises when they're jangled. Plus, parents get really worked up when they go missing—for a baby, what's not to love?

What's the danger: Keys are made of brass and contain a small amount of lead. Although the amount of lead may not be high enough to cause injury immediately, lead poisoning affects kids developmentally. There are currently no federal standards regarding how much lead is safe in keys.

What to do: Get babies and toddlers their own toy keys to gnaw on.

4. Pill bottles + containers

Why children are attracted: Kids are attracted to shiny items and small containers. Some are also curious about the sounds made by shaking pills in the container.

What's the danger: The risk of accidentally swallowing a pill or multiple pills is high. Although most pill containers are made to be child-safe, I've seen a few kids find a way to open them.

What to do: Invest in child-friendly, safe, colorful containers. Some have objects inside that make cool noises when babies shake them—look for rattles that contain noise makers that are too big to fall out when opened.

5. Straws

Why children are attracted: Older infants and toddlers love the idea of being able to sip with a straw. This is good for their development, especially when you are weaning them off a bottle. Straw cups can also help build lip, cheek and tongue strength.

What's the danger: The harm comes when a child engages in active playing such as jumping or running while they have a straw in their mouths. A straw (especially hard plastic or metal ones) can cause a cut inside the mouth if it pokes far back into the child's mouth or throat. Some injuries can be severe enough to damage an important blood supply.

What to do: Observe children while they use a straw and make sure they are not actively playing with a straw in the mouth. Teach children to put straw cups down before play.

6. Diaper rash cream or other creams

Why children are attracted: Babies may not be immediately attracted to a tube of diaper cream, but I've seen parents reach for any quick and easy consoling tool within range while struggling with an unruly diaper change. If a baby reaches for what's in your hand while being changed, you may just give the diaper cream tube to them to hold without a thought.

What's the danger: At this age, almost everything goes to the mouth first—then everywhere else. Your child can suck and chew on the tube till it's open and by the time you realize it, they may have swallowed a good amount of the content, which can be dangerous. The tube cap can also be choking risk if accidentally unscrewed.

What to do: Have safe toys at the ready for your baby to distract themselves with during a diaper change.

7. Coins

Why children are attracted: Coins are shiny and beautifully textured so young children are naturally interested in them. Older toddlers might also like holding coins and imagining they're "rich".

What's the danger: Coins are a choking hazard, which can quickly lead to obstruction and interfering with their airway.

What to do: Be sure to always store coins and other small items safely away. Consider buying a smart kid piggy bank that can help teach your child how to sort coins without danger. Look for toy banks with large coins that can't fit into the mouth.

8. Small brick sets

Why children are attracted: Small brick sets, popularly known as Legos, are a favorite in most homes. For younger children, the colors are fancy enough and the size is small enough that the bricks often head straight for the mouth. So while small building bricks are fascinating toys and an ideal engagement for older kids, if you have younger children in the mix like I do, you have to be careful.

What's the danger: Small items can cause choking in kids if swallowed, especially infants and toddlers. Also, some of the building bricks are small enough to fit in other holes—like the ears and nose.

What to do: Separate toys by age. Get a dedicated container to pack building bricks and other small toys into, and be sure it's a container that snaps shut or locks. Raising Dragons has some great ideas for DIY brick sorters, too. Always encourage older siblings to pack up once they are done playing with theirs.

Here's to hoping that you and your little ones stay safe.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.

And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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