With the holiday season in full swing, countless parents are storming the aisles of toy stores around the world, snatching up the latest and greatest gifts for their children. But wait! What about the dangerous toys? I know what you’re thinking: ‘Toys can’t be dangerous! Toys are only fun!’ Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Each year over 120,000 children are seriously injured or even die from toy manufacturing related accidents, according to research by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC: www.cpsc.gov). Before you grab that hot new item for your child, remember to take a few precautions, bearing these suggestions in mind:
1. Look for Choking Hazard Warning Labels
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires that any toy product containing small removable parts be labeled with the appropriate choking hazard warning. This label will additionally list any other potential hazards and should denote the appropriate child age range the toy is targeted toward. This should give parents an idea of what age group the manufacturer had in mind when they created the product. Ask yourself if the toy is suited for your child’s mental and emotional developmental level.
As a general rule, the CPSC requires that any toy marketed toward children ages 3-6 be labeled with the appropriate warning label if the toy will prove hazardous to children ages 3 and under. Use good judgment and common sense when shopping for your younger children. As the parent, you should be able to ascertain the ability of your child to handle more complex and intricate toys. If you question their safety, don’t buy the product.
2. Look for Large Plastic Wrappings-Potential Suffocation Hazards
Several toy products, particularly those shipped directly to your house, will be packaged in some form of plastic wrapping. After opening the box, be certain to trash any and all plastic bag or wrapping materials as they could potentially pose a suffocation hazard in the hands of your child.
3. Look for Small Magnets and/or Batteries
In 2007, countless children suffered severe intestinal injuries due to the swallowing of one or more small magnets which had fallen out of their toy, according to the CPSC. Once two or more magnets are swallowed and are attracted to one another through the child’s intestinal walls, infection, blockage and/or intestinal twisting can occur.
After purchasing your child’s toy product (particularly electronic ones), check to see if it includes any small magnets and/or batteries. If so, you may want to remove them before wrapping it and placing it under the tree. Or better yet, open the toy and insert the batteries before you wrap it. This way, your child will be able to play with his/her new toy without having to handle the magnets or batteries himself.
4. Avoid Heavy Toys that could be Easily Knocked Over
Every child would love to receive something large and grand for Christmas, but it may not be the safest option. Before purchasing that gigantic gift, ask yourself “Is my child strong enough to knock this over? Would this toy physically harm my child if it fell on him/her?” The weight of the product should a factor in your purchase decision making process.
5. Avoid Overly Loud Toys
For years, countless parents nationwide have complained of hearing damage suffered by their child due to the loudness of a particular toy. This year, make sure you first test the toy while still in the store. The vast majority of electronic, noise-making toys will bear a “Try Me” label. As a rule of thumb, if the toy hurts your ears, odds are it will be too loud for your child. The majority of toy safety groups recommend that an electronic toy not exceed 85 decibels. Anything above this level is grounds for potential hearing damage or complete hearing loss.
6. Investigate any Potentially Harmful Chemical Ingredients
Last but not least, you will want to make sure the product is chemically safe. Do your homework and research different toy products online. This means before purchasing those plastic toys, look for the “phthalate-free” label. A chemical group which has been scientifically proven to cause reproductive harm, phthalates are no laughing matter. As for metal toys, you will want to be careful here too. Never purchase a metal toy for younger children who may insert the toy into their mouth. And finally, avoid toys with heavy amounts of paint. Lead poisoning is still a leading cause of child fatalities in toy-related accidents.
In the end, it’s all about observation, good judgment, knowing your child’s developmental level and doing your homework. Christmas is no longer fun you find yourself rushing your child to the emergency room. Keep safety in mind this season while shopping for those hard-to-find toys!