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Safe Toys

Child Safety Basics

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Updated November 27, 2011

Kids should have fun with toys, but surprisingly, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 17 children died in toy related deaths in 2010. And an additional 181,500 were treated in emergency rooms for toy related injuries.

In addition to choosing safe toys and making sure the toys your kids play with are age appropriate and haven't been recalled, you can help to keep them safe by taking special precautions with the following potentially dangerous toys and toys that include hazardous parts, including:

  • Magnetic Toys - toys with small magnets, such as the Polly Pocket dolls and accessories with magnets and Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets, should be avoided by children. Unfortunately, if more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets can become attracted to each other and can cause a blockage. Don't let kids under age 6 years play with building or play sets with small magnets.
  • Small Parts - toys with small parts are a choking hazard for children under age 3.
  • Balloons - balloons should be kept away from kids under age 8 years, as they are a choking hazard when they are deflated or broken.
  • Ride-on Toys - injuries from riding toys lead to many toy related injuries, so make sure children wear all appropriate safety gear, including helmets and pads, when playing with ride-on toys.
  • Projectile Toys - younger children improperly playing with projectile toys, including air rockets and darts, can get serious injuries, including eye injuries
  • Chargers and Adapters - many children toys now include batteries, chargers, and adapters, and to avoid thermal burns, it is important that adults supervise the use of all chargers and adapters.
  • Loud Toys - several toys tested by the Public Interest Research Group this year exceeded 65 to 85 decibels, which can cause hearing loss.
  • Children's Jewelry - there were many recalls of children's jewelry in recent years because they contained high levels of lead, which can cause lead poisoning, cadmium, and other metals.

Age Appropriate Toys

Avoiding toys that aren't age appropriate is often harder than you would think, especially if your younger child has older siblings. While the latest Lego Star Wars set might be perfectly appropriate for your 8 year old, the small pieces would clearly be a choking hazard for your 2 year old. So what do you do?

Since it can be hard to always trust your kids to put their toys away, the safest thing to do is have a 'safe zone' where such toys are off limits and where you know that your younger children can play safely. This can be a childproofed room or gated off area of a larger room. Alternatives can be to have your older kids play with their toys in rooms that are off limits to younger kids or simply be diligent about making sure they pick their toys up.

Kids can also sometimes get age inappropriate toys as gifts, when friends or family members don't respect the age restrictions on labels. Having a policy that you only let your kids play with age appropriate toys and either returning the toy or keeping it until your child grows into it, can help to make sure he doesn't get injured by it.

Toy Safety

To keep your kids safe while playing with their toys, it is also important to:
  • quickly take recalled toys away from your children
  • regularly inspect toys, and then either fix or throw away broken toys, especially if they have chipping paint
  • supervise your younger children while they are playing
  • discourage children from putting toys in their mouth
  • review the Trouble in Toyland report about hidden toy hazards
  • avoid home trampolines, ATVs, and nonpowder guns, including BB guns, which the American Academy of Pediatrics says are 'weapons and should never be characterized as toys.'
And since you never know which toy will be recalled next, do your own inspection before you let your kids play with new toys and as toys get old. Although it isn't really practical to do a home lead test on all of your child's toys, you can check for small parts that you can easily pull off and other design flaws.



Sources:

CPSC. Shop CPSC Toy Safety Tips Before Shopping for Holiday Gifts. Release #09-040.

26st annual Trouble in Toyland report. Public Interest Research Group

Skateboard and Scooter Injuries. PEDIATRICS Vol. 109 No. 3 March 2002, pp. 542-543

Trampolines at Home, School, and Recreational Centers. Pediatrics 1999 103: 1053-1056.

All-Terrain Vehicle Injury Prevention: Two-, Three-, and Four-Wheeled Unlicensed Motor Vehicles. Pediatrics 2000 105: 1352-1354.

Injury Risk of Nonpowder Guns. PEDIATRICS Vol. 114 No. 5 November 2004, pp. 1357-1361

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