Things to keep in mind when shopping for presents for your little loved ones this Christmas season.
Toys are the treasures of childhood, as long as they’re chosen with care. But are toys really hazardous?
Consider the year 2004: In that year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 210,300 toy-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms. Of those, 35 percent (72,800) involved kids under 5.
You may want to observe these guidelines when choosing toys, and share them with anyone who may be buying gifts for your children.
• Is it suited to your child’s developmental level? Most toys bear a “recommended age” sticker, which should be taken as a starting point in the selection process. Be realistic about your child’s abilities and level of maturity when choosing an age-appropriate toy. Toys that have projectiles, for example, are never suitable for a child under age 4 — and even some 6-year-olds aren’t mature enough to handle them. Likewise, if your 3-year old still puts everything into his mouth, continue to steer clear of toys and games with small parts and pieces.
• Think big. Until your child turns 3, toy parts should be bigger than his mouth to avoid the possibility of choking. To determine whether a toy poses a choking risk, try fitting it through a toilet paper roll. If a toy or part of a toy can fit inside the cylinder, it’s not safe.
• Is the toy too heavy? Could your baby be harmed if it fell on him? If so, pass.
• Look for toys that are well put together. Make sure tails are securely sewn, seams of stuffed animals are reinforced, and paint is not peeling. Stuffed animals should also be free of buttons, yarn, ribbons, and anything else your child could yank off and put in his mouth.
• Is your child physically ready for this toy? For example, parents of older kids may buy a bike one size too big so as not to have to buy a new bike the next year. This tactic can lead to serious injury if a child doesn’t have the physical skills to control the bigger bike.
• Is the toy in good condition? Used toys passed down from older relatives or siblings or bought at yard sales can be worn or frayed, which can be sometimes pose a danger. Examine all new or used toys for buttons, batteries, ribbons, eyes, beads, and plastic appendages that could easily be chewed or snapped off.
• Does the toy have a string or cord longer than 12 inches? A cord can too easily be wrapped around a young child’s neck, causing strangulation. Once your child can climb up on his hands and knees, remove crib gyms and hanging mobiles from his crib. Be particularly vigilant about older toys. For example, an older model of a popular play kitchen may have a phone attached with a potentially deadly cord, while the latest model of the same kitchen has the more current and safer cordless phone.
• Does the toy use small magnets? In 2007, the CPSC named magnets the #1 hidden home hazard. Small, powerful magnets are often used in toys, and may fall out of the toy and be swallowed by a child. Two or more swallowed magnets (or a magnet and a metal object) can be attracted to each other through intestinal walls, causing twisting and pinching of the intestines, holes, blockages, infection, and worse if not discovered and treated promptly. As of August 2007, one death and 86 injuries from magnets had been reported to the CPSC, and 8 million magnetic toys had been recalled. The agency recommends keeping toys with magnets away from kids under 6 years old.