The holidays are here, and most parents are franticly searching for the “perfect” toy for their children. These days, most toys are heavily monitored to meet proper safety standards, but still in 2020, approximately 198,000 toy-related injuries resulted in Emergency Room visits. While more than 90% of those injured were treated and then released, there were unfortunately nine deaths reported – most of them choking-related. Keep in mind that non-motorized scooters account for 21% of these injuries for children under 14.

To avoid unfortunate situations like these, parents should always follow the suggestions below to ensure that the toys they are buying are safe for their children, especially as we honor National Safe Toys and Gifts Month this December. First of all, read the toy’s label and make sure it is non-toxic, age-appropriate, and compatible with your child’s cognitive abilities. Then, make sure there are no sharp edges or small or loose parts; parts must be larger than your child’s mouth if they are under the age of three.

Think Twice Before You Buy

In general, try to keep toys as clean as possible, and frequently check for any damage. Be wary of toys marketed online, always checking that the product description does not omit warnings or provide incomplete or misleading information. Avoid realistic-looking toy weapons as these may promote violence, and for bikes, skateboards, scooters, and roller skates, require your child to wear a helmet, knee and elbow pads.

You should also be extra careful with balloons as they are a choking hazard, batteries because they can leak, overheat, or explode, and magnets because they can be lethal if ingested. Try not to purchase toys that shoot objects into the air to avoid eye injuries, or toys that are too loud and could damage your child’s hearing. Hobby kits and chemistry sets for kids under the age of 12 should also be avoided unless carefully supervised.

For electric toys, check that they are “UL Approved”. For stuffed toys, check that they are well made, machine washable, and do not have loose ties which are a strangulation risk.

Choosing the Right Toys for Infants

For infants, wood toys and books made of paper or wood fibers may be preferable over similar plastic products due to the possible toxicity of chemicals in the plastics. Be careful when buying crib toys, as soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation and should be kept out of the crib.

Age-appropriate toys are the perfect opportunity to interact with your child in a fun and intellectually-stimulating manner. When picking out a toy, your child may be just as happy with a simple one that you may also remember loving as a child (For example, Mr. Potato Head), rather than the latest expensive “fad” toy. If you remember loving it as a child, the chances are that your child will love it too.

Prevent Injuries While Playing

Helping your child discover how to use the toy correctly will also limit the chances of him/her being injured or of damaging the toy. Don’t forget once the toy is unwrapped, you should dispose of the packing materials, as they can also be choking hazards for little ones (but keep the directions for correct assembly and usage). Once playtime is over, teaching your child to put away their toys helps them learn responsibility and reduces the hazard of tripping over them later.

Other Resources for Safe Gift Giving

In the age of instant opinions and online reviews, comments from other parents may be helpful when selecting your next toy gift. Before you buy a toy, and if you have any hesitations, you can also check out various resources like CPSC.gov and saferproducts.gov to see if there is a product recall. After purchasing a toy, you can mail in the warranty card, so you are notified of any recalls, as well. For more information about safe toys, check out resources from W.A.T.C.H.: World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about dangerous children’s products and protecting children from harm.

This holiday season, it’s important to spend time with the people you love most. It’s also important to prioritize safe gift-giving, so share these tips with your friends and family to ensure a happy, healthy, and safe start to 2022!

 

Dr. Robin Straus Furlong is a proud member of the TopLine MD Alliance practicing pediatrics in Miami-Dade County.