Who doesn’t enjoy the look of excitement on a child’s face when they receive a new toy? But did you know that each year, nearly 200,000 children in the U.S. are taken to emergency rooms with toy-related injuries, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign? Of course, this doesn’t mean that families need to avoid toys altogether. But it does mean that—especially during the holiday peak buying season—it is important for parents to know how to evaluate toys and determine which are safe enough to bring into their homes.
The National SAFE KIDS Campaign and other organizations recommend avoiding:
- Toys with small, removable parts (magnets, marbles, etc.) that children could choke on; any toy with parts that fit in an empty toilet paper roll is too small for children under 3 years of age
- Toys with sharp points or edges that could lead to accidental cuts
- Toys that make loud noises, which can permanently impair children’s hearing
- Projectiles that can cause cuts or damage eyes
- Toys with strings, straps, or cords longer than 7 inches, which can strangle children
- Toys with lead-based paint, which can cause poisoning
- Toy cap guns, which can cause burns
Parents can go further to evaluate the safety of individual products. On electronic toys, look for UL approval, as indicated by a UL insignia (UL is an organization that tests products for public safety). On crayons, paints, markers, and similar items, look for a prominent “Nontoxic” label. With all toys, it’s also wise to conduct a quick online search at the Consumer Product Safety Commission or www.recalls.gov to find out if any recalls have been issued.
The most obvious safety guideline on toy packaging is the age recommendation—but keep in mind that these are general guidelines and additional parental judgment may be needed. For instance, a jigsaw puzzle for children ages 3 and up may have small pieces that are not safe for some 3-year-old children. In homes with multiple children, it’s also important to be aware that a toy bought for an older child may end up being used by a younger sibling.
Buying new instead of used toys is also advisable because toy safety standards have generally become more stringent over time. In addition, some used products may have been recalled or misused during ownership and therefore could pose unknown threats to new owners due to leaking batteries, broken parts, and other hazards.
It’s important for parents to be aware that toy safety concerns extend to the simple opening of the toy as well. Plastic wrapping and other toy packaging should be cleaned up right away because it could pose a choking hazard, and learning to use toys safely often requires parental guidance and training. Note, for instance, that non-motorized scooters—which take time to learn how to use safely—are responsible for the most toy-related injuries in children under the age of 15. For faster moving toys like scooters, skateboards, bikes and skates it’s critical to ensure that children wear helmets and protective safety gear every time. It may seem like there is a lower chance of injury indoors, but there are still plenty of corners and hard objects to be aware of.
There are plenty of fun and safe toys out there for everyone so with a few precautions you’ll have less to worry about and more time to enjoy the holidays.