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Baby playing with cell phone

What Baby’s Playing With That Isn’t Safe

Wondering if ordinary items like keys, cell phones or laundry baskets are safe for baby to play with? Here’s the lowdown.

Photo: Shutterstock / The Bump

You know the drill: When you’re out running errands with baby, you give him your keys or your cell phone to keep him from going nuts in the grocery store (we’ve all done it!). But is it really safe to give baby certain everyday objects? We had experts give us the inside scoop.

Keys

Babies love the shininess and sounds of keys -- and the real deal are way more fun than those plastic keys -- but are they really okay? 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,” says Berkowitz. “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 he can put them in his mouth without harming himself. Or if baby likes the cold feel of the metal in his mouth, we love the teething jewelry from Momma’s Jewels. Baby grabs at your necklace when you’re holding him anyway, so why not splurge for a sterling-silver one that’s specifically designed so baby can chomp away safely?

TV Remote

Baby might be intrigued by the remote, especially because he sees how much the grown-ups grab for it. But you’ll want to keep it away from him. “Remotes aren’t safe to play with,” says Berkowitz. “Remote controls 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.” When baby’s over 18 months, it’s okay for him to play with a remote-control toy, like the Fisher-Price Sesame Street Silly Sounds Remote ($35, Amazon.com).

iPad or other Tablets

It’s pretty common to let babies play with iPads, especially since now there are plenty of kid-friendly apps. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two years old shouldn’t be exposed to screens, like the ones on tablets, smartphones and televisions. That’s because research has found that kids under two aren’t able to understand the educational content, and they learn best from unstructured, unplugged playtime and learn more from live presentations than from video. Monica Vila, founder of TheOnlineMom.com, a website that helps parents protect their kids when it comes to exposing them to technology, says, “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.” Plus, electronic tablets have glass screens and batteries with electrical charges. “It won’t take a lot for a baby to bite it or drop it, and batteries or liquids inside of the tablet can come out,” says Vila. “Those aren’t safe for eating.”

Cell Phones

Have you seen those 10 o’clock news reports that say cell phones have traces of poop on them? Gross! Knowing that cell phones are riddled with germs is probably enough reason not to let baby touch yours or put it in his mouth. “These phones that might be covered with germs could cause serious illness,” says Berkowitz. Also, like remotes and iPads, cell phones have small pieces and batteries, which won’t be safe for baby if he puts them in his 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 Sesame Street Elmo Cell Phone ($12, Amazon.com).

Coins

Your baby might come across your coin purse or jar 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,” says Berkowitz. So not worth the risk.

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,” says Berkowitz. If baby puts the pen cap or crayon in his mouth, he 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 he’s a toddler, and you should supervise him even then. When it’s time for your tot to use markers and crayons, look for nontoxic and washable ones.

Baby Wipes

While baby’s on the changing table, maybe he grabs at the wipes and even stuffs 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 -- don’t. Most baby wipes are nontoxic, but Berkowitz says, “It’s not wise to allow baby to suck on wipes, because he could ingest the chemicals in them. 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.

Laundry Basket

Baby might love climbing in and out of the laundry basket, but is it a safe toy? “It’s not unsafe, but parental supervision is needed to prevent baby from falling or chewing on the plastic,” says Berkowitz. So feel free to let baby make a fort with the baskets, but make sure you’re keeping a close watch the whole time he’s doing it.

Plus, more from The Bump:

How Can I Entertain Baby?

Best Books to Read to Baby

Cool Things to Do With Your Kids Indoors

-- Sarah Yang

See More: Baby Basics , Safety