As we shop and choose gifts for young children this holiday season, it is wise to remember that not all toys are made to be as safe as they should be. Don’t let your family’s celebration be ruined by child injuries due to defective products.
As the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states:
“Protecting children from unsafe toys is the responsibility of everyone. Careful toy selection and proper supervision of children at play is still – and always will be – the best way to protect children from toy-related injuries.”
The children who receive your gifts will be happiest if you choose toys that are appropriate for their age, interests and skill levels. They will stay safe if you follow these tips compiled from the CPSC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), WebMd, SafeKids and HealthCommunities.com:
1. Give gifts for the ages.
Some toys are designed for older children and have parts that can be dangerous for younger kids. These include toys with sharp edges, heating elements, small pieces, detachable parts or strings or cords that can be choking hazards.
Teach older kids to keep such toys out of smaller children’s hands. Also, keep in mind: Older children bored by toys intended for younger kids can be injured if they seek unintended uses for unchallenging toys. Discourage such misuse.
2. Check the country of origin.
The reality is that some other countries have lax manufacturing standards and export toys that contain lead, including brightly painted toys from Pacific Rim countries, particularly China; ceramic or pottery toys manufactured outside of the U.S. and Europe; and jewelry, especially metal jewelry. Soft vinyl toys can also contain toxins, including lead.
3. Wrap up wrapping paper.
As each gift is opened, dispose of plastic wrap and other toy packaging promptly. Promptly place small pieces of paper, tape, Styrofoam peanuts and other packaging materials into a trash bag and away from small children.
4. Remember: Not so LOUD!
Noise-making toys like guns, musical instruments, electronics and even rattles and squeak toys for small kids can damage hearing if they are too loud and too close to a child’s ear. Some loud toys should only be played with outside of the home. Instruct older children about proper volume levels for music players, especially those with earbuds.
5. Respect the power source.
Make sure a child is responsible enough before giving an electric toy to him or her. Electrical products of all kinds, including chargers and adapters, pose dangers such as electric shock and burns – especially if the product has a heating element. These toys are also likely to pose mechanical hazards like sharp edges and points and dangerous moving parts. Infants and toddler should be kept away from electrical toys.
6. Beware of batteries.
Button batteries are a choking and swallowing hazard. A tiny battery won’t simply “pass.” A small child who swallows a button battery can suffer chemical burns in as little as two hours. Supervise older children when changing toy batteries and discard old batteries properly.
7. Identify flying objects.
Darts, rockets, bow-and-arrow sets, BB guns and similar items really can put someone’s eye out. Instruct children in proper play with these types of toys, including never aiming them at anyone and making sure spectators are behind the user.
8. Add a second gift for safety.
If you plan to give a new bike, skateboard, scooter, sled, skates or other ride-on toys, be sure to give the recipient a new helmet, too. Consider giving knee and elbow pads and other safety gear as well.
9. Be a part of the fun.
Supervise children at play to ensure safety. Instruct them in the proper use of toys and discourage improper use such as multiple children on a ride-on toy built for one. Watch the mix of older and younger children to ensure that smaller kids are not hurt by play that is too rough.
10. Store toys safely for another day.
When play is done, toys should be stored in open chests or bins that have no lids, chests with lightweight, removable lids or chests with sliding doors or panels that do not present the risk of a falling lid. If a chest has a hinged lid, make sure it is designed to (and does) hold the lid open in any position in which it is placed.