Guidelines for Safe and Fun Toys

Avoid Toy-Related Injuries 

Image of mother and daughter playing blocksThe holidays are a fun and exciting time of year for families. Now that Santa has made his annual visit and you’ve likely attended multiple family gatherings, children are excited to begin playing with all of their new toys and gifts in the year to come. While the right toys can help children develop imagination and coordination, the wrong ones can do more harm than good.

Toy-related injuries send tens of thousands of children to the emergency room each year. Many injuries occur when parents give their children toys meant for older children. Pediatrician, Charlotte Lofgren, MD, shares suggestions that can help ensure your children are playing with toys they enjoy and that you know are safe.

Watch for small parts - Don't give toys with small parts to toddlers and small children. These youngsters tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. As a general rule for children younger than two, parts should be a least 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long to prevent choking.

Age appropriate - Ensure toys and games suit a child's age, abilities, skills, and interest level. This is usually indicated by a manufacturer’s warning on the product. Toys that are too advanced can pose safety hazards.

Read carefully - Read instructions carefully and follow suggested age levels and safety instructions. Age labeling is provided for developmental and safety reasons.

Look for standards - Look for the letters "ASTM." This means that a product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Be sure to read any warning labels before buying toys. Also, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website for a list of recalled toys and recall alerts.

Watch the action - Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off. Slingshots and high-powered water guns can injure children they are aimed at. BB guns shouldn't be considered toys.

Inspect toys for solid construction - They should be made of long-lasting materials, have no sharp edges or points, and be able to survive impact. The eyes, noses, and other small parts of stuffed animals should be securely fastened to reduce the risk of choking.

Harmful chemicals - Read all packaging labels to ensure toys are labeled non-toxic to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals or paints. Children’s costume jewelry often contains lead-based paint.

Ribbons and strings - Avoid allowing young children to play with toys that contain strings or ribbons more than 12 inches in length as it can result in strangulation or becoming entangled.

Magnets and batteries - Be extra cautious with toys that include magnets or button batteries. If swallowed these can cause serious damage to a child’s esophagus, stomach, or intestines.

If your child does happen to swallow something they shouldn’t and it causes immediate choking or gagging, use the Heimlich maneuver to clear the airway. Even if breathing seems normal, it is still best to contact your healthcare provider immediately. An x-ray can be performed to ensure the swallowed item has made its way into your child’s stomach and isn’t lodged in the esophagus, which could cause further damage.

“Keep in mind that the best toys are those that keep parents involved at the same time such as board games or puzzles – after all the greatest gift you can give your child is quality time,” said Dr. Lofgren.

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