It’s official…toy season is here and there’s no escaping it! From blocks, bicycles, balls, and board games, to dolls, dump trucks, drum sets, and dress-up, toys for all different ages are everywhere we turn.
Toys should be fun, stimulating, developmentally and age appropriate, and last but not least SAFE! It may be hard to imagine how a tricycle, marbles, or even a stuffed animal could be associated with injuries, but it happens, and it happens a lot! Sadly, there are even deaths associated with toys.
The most recent summary from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on toy injuries and deaths, reports that in 2009 an estimated 250,100 toy related injuries were treated in emergency rooms (ER) in the United States. By my calculations, that translates into an estimated average of about 685 ER visits every day just for toy injuries. These are really astounding numbers when you think about the fact that these injuries are associated with toys… items specifically designed to bring smiles and delight to our children, not tears, pain, and a trip to the hospital.
The report also states that the estimated number of toy related injuries in children has been increasing over the past few years. When I read statistics like this one, I immediately think about what we, as parents, can do to help keep our kids safe when it comes to potential toy injuries.
Here are some important tips* to know about and pay attention to when it comes to keeping our kids safe with their toys:
- Children should be playing with age appropriate toys. Always read the warning labels and instructions before purchasing a toy. Never allow a child to play with a toy which contains a warning label for his/her age. Remember, you know your child best, so, for example, if there is a toy with a label that warns against a child under 3 using it and your child is 4 and still exploring the world with his/her mouth, then don’t purchase or allow your child to play with the toy!
- Look for well made, safe toys. Be aware of potential dangers such as small parts, loose parts, cords, strings, moving parts, magnets, electrical cords/wires, batteries, toxic materials, etc. and don’t bring toys which are dangerous into the home.
- Provide close, adult, age appropriate supervision at all times while children are playing with toys.
- Be sure proper safety equipment is used in conjunction with toys requiring it. For example, a toddler riding a tricycle always needs a properly fitted bike helmet, and a child riding a scooter must wear an appropriate, well fitted helmet.
- Never allow riding toys of any kind near stairs, swimming pools (or any water source), or traffic.
- Keep toys intended for older children away from younger children. Be sure that the older kids play with their toys in an area where young kids are not present, and that the toys are completely cleaned up after playing, and stored high up and locked away, where curious little ones can’t get to them.
- Check toys regularly for loose parts and damage, and discard any toys which could be a potential danger. Be sure to throw away any unwanted toys in a place where kids can’t see them, or get to them.
- Pay close attention to toy recalls and immediately follow the instructions for any recalled item. Check the CPSC website frequently and sign up for email alerts from the CPSC about recalls. Fill out and return any registration cards that come with the toy.
- Some particularly concerning items that parents should be extra careful to keep away from children at all times include: magnets, batteries, balloons (especially deflated ones and pieces of balloons once popped), small balls, and toys with small pieces.
- Put toys away after playing. Be sure to store toys intended for older children separate from toys intended for younger children.
- After opening up a toy of any kind be sure to get rid of all the packaging material right away, including any ribbons and ties which could pose a strangulation or choking risk.
- Avoid toys which require an electrical outlet for power. Instead, battery operated toys are preferred. Charging batteries, and anything which requires an electrical source should be handled by an adult. And, batteries should be kept out of reach of children at all times.
- Of course, these tips are useful year round, but deserve special attention this time of year, when parents are eagerly searching for and purchasing toys for their children.
Hopefully, these toy safety tips will help keep your family safe this holiday season and throughout the year!
*compiled from Safe Kids USA, CPSC, American Academy of Pediatrics