While adults enjoy giving toys and games to children, the safety and appropriateness of the gift should always be kept top of mind. In 2004, 210,000 people — three-quarters of whom were children under age five — were treated in emergency departments for toy-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
To help make sure the toys their children play with are safe, parents should:
- Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys that are too advanced may pose safety hazards to younger children.
- Make sure that you and your child clearly understand the manufacturer’s instructions for safe use of the toy, including any warnings.
- Be wary of purchasing riding toys (especially unpowered scooters); these toys continue to be associated with more injuries than any other category. When using riding toys, make sure your child wears appropriate protective gear (e.g., helmets, kneepads) and has the needed skills.
- Avoid choking hazards. Be aware that toys with small parts can be fatal to infants, toddlers and all children who still put objects into their mouths (typically age three and younger). These include balloons, marbles, small balls and toys with small removable parts. Make sure that all of the toy’s parts, including eyes, noses and ears on stuffed animals or dolls, are secured tightly. Never let children play with under-inflated or broken balloons as they can cause suffocation.
- Stay away from toys with long strings or cords, which can cause strangulation. Remove crib mobiles as soon as your child can push up on his hands and knees.
- Steer clear of toys with sharp edges and points.
- Avoid toys that shoot small objects or include parts that fly off, which can cause serious cuts and injure eyes in particular.
- If your child has a toy box, make sure the lid will stay open in any position and not fall unexpectedly. It also should have ventilation holes to prevent suffocation if your child gets trapped inside.
- Buy only crayons and paint sets that are labeled “nontoxic.”
- Always throw away plastic packaging which can lead to suffocation.
- Share this list with friends and relatives who purchase gifts for your child.
There is no substitute for proper adult supervision when it comes to young children. Children under age three tend to put everything in their mouths. They also love to pull, throw and twist toys, so look for toys that are well-made and can withstand impact. Parents should also pay attention to toys that have been recalled and remove them from the home. It can be difficult to keep older siblings’ toys away from younger children, but sometimes this is essential for safety’s sake.