December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month
Every year, more than 250,000 kids under the age of 14 are injured by toys.
So if you’re shopping for young children this holiday season, here are some tips and resources to help keep kids safe.
Prevent Blindness, the sponsors of Safe Toys and Gifts Month, offers this pretty comprehensive do and don’t list:
- Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off.
- Ask yourself or the parent if the toy is right for the child’s ability and age. Consider whether other smaller children may be in the home that may have access to the toy.
- Avoid purchasing toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges.
- Ensure all art materials are labeled as “nontoxic.”
- Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
- Look for the letters “ASTM.” This designation means the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
- Gifts of sports equipment should always be accompanied by protective gear (such as a basketball along with eye goggles).
- Do not give toys with small parts to young children. Young kids tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. If any part of a toy can fit in a toilet paper roll, the toy is not appropriate for children under the age of 3.
- Do not purchase toys with long strings or cords, especially for infants and very young children as these can become wrapped around a child’s neck.
- Always dispose of uninflated or broken balloons immediately.
- Do not purchase toys with small magnets. Magnets, like those found in magnetic building sets and other toys, can be extremely harmful if swallowed. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect a child may have swallowed a magnet.
- Ensure any batteries are securely in place.
- Read all warnings and instructions on the box.
- Always supervise children and demonstrate to them how to use their toys safely.
More tips to keep kids safe
Magnets can be a choking hazard, of course, but if more than one magnet is swallowed, they can come together in a child’s intestines and cause a life-threatening blockage.
High-powered magnets are the biggest problem. They are not sold as children’s toys but rather as adult novelty gifts, such as the small magnetic balls (image right) marketed for “stress relief.”
Batteries can be a double danger, as well. The small coin-sized lithium batteries, especially, are attractive to toddlers and easy to choke on. Batteries also contain a caustic chemical that can cause burns if it leaks while in the child’s digestive tract.
Lasers are another misused product. While there are some mild-powered lasers that the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has labeled safe enough for toys, many others are not. Laser pointers used for school or work, for example, are attractive to kids but can cause eye damage—even blindness—if the light is pointed directly into the eye.
Keep these items well out of the reach of small children!
Here are more links to some of my favorite child safety websites:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics
- Seattle Children’s Hospital (my hometown)
- Consumer Product Safety Commission Find toy safety alerts, information about recalled products, or report a toy you think is unsafe.
- World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) Watch the slide show of this year’s nominees for worst toys of 2018. Hopefully none of them are on your shopping list!
This post has been updated since its original publication in 2018.