Holiday Safety Toy Checklist
Houston (December 5, 2008) – Toys and tots make the holidays festive and fun. But each year, thousands of children are seriously injured by toys. Choosing a safe toy could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Almost all deaths and half of all toy-related injuries involve children under age 4. Children age 3 and younger have the greatest risk of choking because they tend to put objects especially toys in their mouths.
So how can you spot safety at the toy shop?
"When shopping for gifts, I recommend that parents and loved ones bring a toy checklist," said Dr. Dawn Lord, a pediatrician with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. "If you can check 'yes' to any of the checklist questions, leave the toy on the shelf."
Does the toy have any sharp edges that can cut someone?
Is the toy made of cheap or thin plastic that can easily splinter or break into sharp pieces?
Is the toy poorly made, leaving ample opportunity for small pieces to be removed and swallowed or choked on?
Is it a throwing toy with sharp points or spikes?
Is it a flying toy, a missile or a dart with any sharp points?
Is the toy wrong for the intended child's age? (Reading the package can assist you in making this determination.)
Gift givers should avoid balls, marbles or other toys smaller than 1.75 inches across. Instead, opt for toys too large to be swallowed. Toys with small parts that may break off also pose choking hazards.
Children can suffocate on uninflated latex balloons and on pieces of burst balloons, so avoiding latex balloons altogether is a good idea. And toys with straps or strings may present a strangulation risk.
Toys that hang above cribs should be secured on both crib rails. These toys should be taken down when infants begin to push up on their knees, usually around 5 months of age, to reduce the risk of strangulation.
When buying arts-and-crafts gifts for children ages 3 to 12, look for products marked with the ASTM-D4236 designation. This code indicates that the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist or expert on poisonous substances. Any known health hazards will have been identified and stated on the label. However, the designation does not mean the product is nontoxic.
Also, consider a child's age when buying electronic toys, which can pose electrocution risks for young children.
"Parents should frequently inspect toys and repair or discard those with broken parts or fraying cords," Dr. Lord said. "Pay particular attention to the age recommended for the toy, as indicated on the packaging."
Quick Tips for Toy Care and Maintenance
Inspect toys often.
Throw away or repair any broken toy, including broken plastic elements on stuffed animals (i.e. buttons used for eyes and noses).
Discard the toy's plastic wrapping right away.
Teach children to pick up their toys to avoid falls.
Store toys requiring adult supervision out of reach of children.
Teach older children that they can help reduce injuries with their younger siblings, cousins and friends by keeping their toys away from younger children.
Toy guns should be brightly colored so they are not mistaken for the real thing.
BB guns are not toys. They account for an average of four deaths in the United States each year.
When heading to the toy shop, be sure to consider the age of the child as well as his or her interests, and keep the safe toy checklist handy.