With toy shopping in high gear this Christmas season, there comes this statistic from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: For 2006, there were 22 toy-related deaths and approximately 165,100 toy-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms for children under the age of 15.
Parents should keep this alarming statistic in mind as they decide what to get their children for Christmas.
Dr. Jay Schwartz, MD, pediatrician on the Centennial Medical Center medical Staff, understands that with so many toys to pick from, the selection can be overwhelming. But he stresses that getting the right toy for a special child really isn’t that complicated as long as you follow these general guidelines and choose a toy with safety in mind.
- Buy the right toy for the right age. Age recommendations listed on toys are based on safety guidelines, not intelligence level or degree of maturity. For infants, toddlers and preschoolers, look for toys that do not have any small parts that might cause a choking hazard, such as marbles or balls that are 1.75 inches (4.4 centimeters) or less in diameter.
- Select toys that are durable and have tightly secured parts that can withstand pulling and twisting.
- Stay away from toys that have sharp edges or points, or toys that are made of brittle plastic that could break easily.
- Avoid toys with long strings or cords that could pose a strangulation risk.
- Never give a young child an uninflated balloon (or piece of balloon) because balloons are the leading cause of suffocation death. Remember to discard wrappings from toys after they have been opened. Plastic bags can be a suffocation hazard for young children.
If you are buying a bicycle, inline skates, scooter or skateboard for an older child, make sure they are used with a helmet or other safety gear, such as hand, wrist or shin guards.
Projectile toys, such as darts or arrows, should have soft tips or suction cups on the ends to avoid eye injuries. Toy guns should be brightly colored with a red tip so they don’t look like real guns. BB or pellet guns are not recommended for children under the age of 16.
Choose toys that comply with safety standards. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates all toys made in or imported into the United States. Toys made after 1995 much comply with CPSC standards, which include setting guidelines and labeling most new toys for particular age groups. You should be aware of recent issues concerning lead paint and other hazards being associated with toys made in China. Check the label on the box to see where the toy was manufactured.
- Make sure toys made with fabric are flame resistant or flame retardant, and choose plush toys that can be washed.
- Select art materials that are nontoxic. Crayons and paints should have the designation “ASTM D-4236” on the package, signifying they have been approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
- Make sure painted toys are covered in lead-free paint.
- Buy electronic toys with the “UL” label that meet safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratories.
- Try to avoid older, hand-me-down toys, even if they have sentimental value. These toys may not meet current safety guidelines or have worn-out parts that could break off and become dangerous.
“Toys can provide hours of enjoyment and help a child’s development,” said Dr. Schwartz. “But if used improperly or without adequate adult supervision, they can cause injury or even death.”