‘Tis the season for giving! And if you have children, grandchildren, nephews or nieces, chances are you’re gearing up to get them a gift on their wish lists. Before you rush off to Toys “R” Us
, you should know that many toys are unsafe and at times, downright dangerous.
December is Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness Month, so we’re here to help you make smart gifting decisions.
Be Mindful of the Recipient’s Age
It’s important to remember to choose a gift that is appropriate for the age of the recipient. A 12-year-old will be more cautious than a 5-year-old. Also, for young children, the biggest concern is choking.
“Far and away the most prevalent risk toys pose to young children is choking," said Young-Jin Sue, M.D., attending pediatrician, Pediatric Emergency Department, The Children's Hospital at Montefiore. "Small toys and toy parts can easily be ingested, causing pain, discomfort and in some cases life-threatening obstruction.”
Dr. Sue also recommends that you stay away from these toys for younger children and stick to larger items without detachable parts.
"Buttons, pull-ties and snaps can all be detached and ingested by an energetic and determined child," added Dr. Sue. "Parents should take care to observe toy manufacturer’s warnings about choking and age appropriateness.”
Larger toys are safer, but many of these come with batteries and magnets that pose a lethal danger.
“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,” said Dr. Sue.
Batteries and small parts are not the only problem-areas for small children. Be wary of packaging.
“Kids so quickly unwrap gifts that the packaging is often forgotten about, but it too could be a hazard,” adds Dr. Sue. “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.”
Older Children: Different Safety Measures
Some of the risks associated with toys for younger children can be applied to toys for older children as well. However, because older children wish for more advanced and sophisticated toys, these gifts bring a whole new set of risks.
In the case of toy weapons, popular items for this age group, any ammunition -- toy darts, arrows, balls, etc. -- should have soft tips or cups at the end. Weapons with hard ammunition, such as BB guns or pellet rifles, need to be strictly reserved for kids over 16. And, according to Dr. Sue, if you're purchasing toy firearms, they should be brightly colored to avoid confusion with the real thing,
She also advises that the proper safety equipment should be used, especially with toys that have electrical cords and sharp edges or toys that ignite, explode, shoot or catapult.
General Toy Safety
No matter the age of the recipient, it’s important that all toys meet the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s guidelines. This means that they need to be properly labeled and contain no toxic materials.
“Some paints and glazes on toys have been found to contain lead and other harmful chemicals,” said Dr. Sue. “Package labels should state safety testing standards, so it's important to read the labels.”
This also makes it risky to give or accept older toys from friends or family. Older toys may not meet the guidelines that have been established in recent years. They might also be less sturdy, resulting in loose pieces, splinters, or rust.
“When selecting toys, quality construction and durability should be taken into consideration," advises Dr. Sue "Child safety is a year-round concern, so toys should be periodically examined for wear and tear throughout the year.”
Safe Toy and Gifts Awareness Month
We agree with Dr. Sue: child safety needs to be on our minds year-round. However, with December being the months of giving and receiving gifts, it’s the perfect opportunity to really bring awareness. Use the tips here to purchase the perfect gift for the children in your family that will not only bring a smile to their faces, but to yours as well. Safe shopping everyone!