The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, of excitement and eager anticipation as kids tear open gifts to see if their wish-list has been fulfilled. While every parent wants to see their child happy with their latest and greatest gifts there are important safety factors that parents should keep in mind.
The most prevalent risk toys pose to young children is choking. Small toys and toy parts can easily be ingested, causing pain, discomfort and in some cases life-threatening obstruction. Here is some advice I share with parents when they are considering what toys to buy:
· Choking: Children younger than age three are developmentally most at risk for choking. In general, toys small enough to hide inside a cardboard toilet paper roll may present the most risk. Try to avoid these items and stick to larger toys with few detachable parts. Buttons, pull-ties and snaps can all be detached and ingested by an energetic and determined child. Parents should take care to observe toy manufacturers’ warnings about choking and age appropriateness.
· Wear and tear: When selecting toys, quality construction and durability should be taken into consideration. Child safety is a year-round concern, so toys should be periodically examined for wear and tear throughout the year.
· Packaging: Kids so quickly unwrap gifts that the packaging is often forgotten about, but it too could be a hazard. Small clips and ties can cause choking and large plastic bags can result in asphyxia. Cords and straps that exceed 8 to 12 inches can be caught around the neck, resulting in strangulation; therefore all toy packaging should be promptly discarded.
· Batteries and magnets: If a child does ingest a toy, in addition to choking, it can result in poisoning. Some paints and glazes on toys have been found to contain lead and other harmful chemicals. Package labels should state safety testing standards, so it’s important to read the labels. Battery compartments should be difficult for a child to open, as ingested button batteries may leak toxic compounds and ingestion of small super-strong magnets may cause intestinal punctures.
· Safety Equipment: For toys that are considered more dangerous, like those with electrical cords, sharp edges and toys that ignite, explode, shoot, or catapult, remember to insist on the use of safety equipment, like helmets, elbow and knee pads, safety eyeglasses and hearing protection. Also, toy firearms should always be brightly colored to avoid confusion with the real thing.
· Toy Recalls: Parents should consider the age, ability, temperament and developmental level of the child recipient. It’s important to heed manufacturers’ warnings and instructions, provide age-appropriate supervision and consistently check for recalls of unsafe toys.