It’s magical when a child holds a treasured toy for the first time. That precious look in the child’s eyes says it all. For grown-ups, that’s the joy of giving toys for birthdays, holidays—or just because.
But while kids want fun stuff, they need safe playthings too. In 2016, an estimated 240,000 of child injuries were toy-related. Keep these safety tips in mind on your next trip down the toy aisle.
Match toys to kids’ ages
Always take the time to check packages for age ranges and read labels carefully. Labels on toy packages can help you decide if the toy is safe for a child’s age and matches his or her interests and abilities. Toys above a child’s age level may be hazardous.
“A one- or two-year-old doesn’t need to be playing with small toy cars, for example, where the wheels could come off and the child could choke on or inhale it,” says Marcus Romanello, MD, chief medical officer and emergency medicine physician at Fort Hamilton Hospital.
Make sure toys are non-toxic
A non-toxic toy doesn’t contain materials that could poison a child. Button batteries present a life-threatening danger to young children, especially if they’re ingested. These types of batteries are smaller and flatter than traditional cell batteries, making them easier for children to swallow. Also be sure to keep tiny magnets away from young children, as they pose the same choking and ingestion threats as button batteries do.
In addition to avoiding toys with small parts, adults should also watch out for popular toys for older children that pose safety risks. Children using backyard trampolines, non-motorized scooters and skateboards, or flash hoverboards risk serious injury. Dr. Romanello recommends helmets and wrist guards for children who are learning to use these toys.
Look for potential hazards
Loud toys can harm a child’s hearing. Strings or ribbons on stuffed animals can cause strangulation—remove them if the gift is for a young child, and keep them away from cribs and playpens of younger siblings. Small game pieces are fine for older kids, but they may choke a younger child if swallowed.
“Most toys do have a reasonable amount of labeling to suggest if there’s a risk of small parts that children can bite off or eat,” Dr. Romanello says.
Think twice about flying toys
Toys that shoot things into the air can be fun, but some parts may injure eyes or be choking hazards. Any toy darts or arrows should always have a soft point or suction end, instead of a hard point.
“Read warnings and instructions carefully, especially for toys purchased for babies and toddlers,” Dr. Romanello advises.
He also suggests that adults always use reasonable safety precautions when gift-giving. “Watch out for being poked in the eye with a new toy sword or an antenna on a radio-controlled car,” he says.
For young kids, avoid toys that need to be plugged in
Children under 10 are safer with battery-powered toys instead, as cords can be a strangulation hazard for young children.
It’s also important for children, regardless of age, to know how to safely use the toys they are given. Always supervise play when a new toy is introduced, and make sure to keep toys clean. Playing with your kids regularly can be one of the best ways to teach them safe habits while still having fun.
For more family resources, including classes on parenting, visit ketteringhealth.org/maternity/education
Source: Consumer Product Safety Commission