“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” heartily sings Andy Williams. Many would happily agree with him. The holiday season truly is a wonderful time for everyone, most of all for the little ones. This is the one time of the year where parents, family and friends get to spoil them with new, interactive, fun-filled toys. Innocently enough, these gadgets can have a dark side to them. A side which can lead to injury or even death.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, “In 2015, there were an estimated 254,200 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments.” What is interesting is that “…of the 254,200 estimated toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries, an estimated 185,500 (73 percent) happened to children younger than 15 years of age; an estimated 175,800 (69 percent) occurred to children 12 years of age or younger; an estimated 88,700 (35 percent) happened to children younger than 5 years of age.” Thus, it is not the younger children, as tradition would have it, who are hurting themselves more frequently with toys.
Equally disturbing is another statistic. According to KidsHealth.org, there are “around 310,000 one-to-five-year-old children in the United States that have been discovered to have deleterious levels of lead in their blood.” As a result, these children develop symptoms like stomach pain, headaches, and even anemia. Studies also suggest that this exposure to lead can slow down the developing brain of a child.
With statistics this alarming, it is easy to see why Prevent Blindness America has declared December as Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness Month. With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, shoppers often forget about the safety factors associated with specific toys. Before you make these purchases, it is critical to remember to consider the safety and age range of the toys. The Prevent Blindness America group encourages everyone to consider if the toys they wish to give suit the age, individual skills, and abilities of the individual child who will receive them. This is crucial when it comes to choosing gifts for infants and children under age three. While these statistics are discouraging, there is no need to panic. There are various ways to ensure that the toys you are buying will be safe, yet fun, for children. Read on for eight tips on picking a safe toy.
Tip #1: Always read the label. Warning labels give important information about how to use a toy and what recommended ages the toy is appropriate for. This information can help you make sure your child is using the toy the right way. This can also can help you discover if there is any toxic material on the toy.
Tip #2: The larger-the better! When it comes to buying toys for little ones, make sure all toys and parts are larger than your child’s mouth to prevent choking. An easy trick is to see if the toy could fit through the hole of a paper towel. If it can, then it is too small and the child could choke on the toy.
Tip #3: Look for sturdy and strong. Well-made toys are the best and most secure toys for kids. Parts should be safely set and not easy to remove. Also watch for toys that have sharp or protruding edges. With any wood toys, make sure they do not splinter.
Tip #4: Avoid any toy that has projectile objects. Toys that shoot objects into the air can easily cause severe and devastating eye injuries, as well as be a choking hazard. These types of toys should only be bought for older, age-appropriate children.
Tip #5: Look for well-made stuffed animals. Any stuffed animal you give an infant or young child should be evaluated to make sure it is well-sewn, as well as machine washable. Make sure to take off any loose ribbons or strings to avoid strangulation. Also avoid toys that have small bean-like pellets, as these can cause choking or suffocation if swallowed.
Tip #6: Beware of magnets! Building sets, dolls, action figures and other craft toys often have magnets. Avoid these for small children at all costs. If swallowed, magnets can tear tissue as well as damage the intestines.
Tip #7: Always be aware of recalls. Before you start shopping for those loved ones, go to the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (www.cpsc.gov). This is a government website that has the most recent toy recalls. (Recalls happen when certain defects or harmful parts have been found with a particular product.)
Tip #8: Avoid discount stores for infants/small children toys. Make sure to shop for these toys at a respected and well-known store, like Babies R Us, Buy-Buy Baby, etc. Even though it is tempting to buy toys from the Dollar Store to avoid a high price, these toys are often flimsy and have parts that are breakable. They could ultimately be more harmful than they are fun!