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Queensland Shoppers watched on - most of them trying to control their laughter - as little Lachlan Stevens grinned at them from inside the toy vending machine.

For a few moments the toddler was just another plush teddy bear waiting to be picked up by the overhead claws.

He had crawled up the prize chute through a "cat flap" and was quite happy to be stuck in the glass box for the half hour it took to get him out.

Sue Stevens said she had turned her back for "one second" when her son went missing in Centro Gympie shopping centre on Saturday.

"I turned around and he was gone and then I looked over at the toy machine and there he was on the inside," she said. "I couldn't believe he got in there."

Mrs Stevens said she found the incident funnier now than at the time.

"People were joking about trying to get him out with the claw but I wasn't in a very laughing mood."

"There was a decent crowd of about 80 people around by the time they got him out," Mrs Stevens told The Gympie Times.

"I said, 'I know you think it's funny but that's my child in there'.

"I was horrified that he actually did it."

To use the toy machine, a player tries to grasp stuffed animals and other toys behind the glass by manipulating overhead claws.

One onlooker said everyone found it "extremely amusing" to see the child stuck inside the machine.

Helen McLeish was shopping with her grandson Stanley when she noticed all the commotion. She thought someone had won something and took a look.

"It was so funny I couldn't stop laughing," she said yesterday. "He was having a ball - he looked like he was in seventh heaven."

Centro security called the owner of the Toy Story crane machines and arranged for someone to get Lachlan out.

Mrs Stevens said they were lucky to locate the only person with keys to the machine.

"There was a guy from Brisbane at the shopping centre who just happened to be there that day," she said.

When the man opened the machine and freed the boy, everyone said he should give him a toy but his mother refused.

"He definitely didn't get a toy," she said

"They did try to give him one but I said don't you dare - he'll do it again."