Holiday Toy Safety: What You Need to Know
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on December 26th, 2011
The holiday gifts from Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are all unwrapped now and the children in your household are probably playing happily with all of the new toys they received, from games to action figures to battery-operated, remote-control helicopters and more.
But are all the toys that you and your family members selected age appropriate for all of the youngsters in your household and are there cautions you should take when the children are playing with their fun new things?
With the holidays here and gift-giving continuing for many families, it’s a great time to be more aware of toy safety and how we as parents need to be watchful for dangers with small children and potentially dangerous toys in our homes.
An average of 20 children under age 14 have died each year in the U.S. from a toy-related incident, according to Safe Kids Worldwide, a Washington-based global non-profit group that works to prevent unintentional childhood injuries. In 2009, the last year that complete data is available, 12 children under age 14 died due to injuries from a toy.
And since 2000, about 168,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in emergency departments for toy-related injuries each year, according to a fact sheet released by the group.
The most common toy-related injuries are due to choking on small parts that become detached from toys or from small balls or other objects that very young children, especially those under age 3, can pick up and put in their mouths, according to the group.
It’s always good to keep in mind that while some gifts may be for older children in a household, if there are younger siblings they must be kept away from toys with small parts that could injure them.
The toys most associated with injuries to children, however, are riding toys including non-motorized scooters and tricycles, according to the statistics from Safe Kids.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds parents to be careful when choosing toys, especially keeping in mind factors such as a child’s age, interests and skill level.
Among some cautions to keep in mind, according to the CPSC:
- Look for quality design and construction in all toys for all ages.
- Make sure that all directions or instructions are clear — to you, and, when appropriate, to the child. Plastic wrappings on toys should be discarded at once before they become deadly playthings.
- Be a label reader. Look for and heed age recommendations, such as “Not recommended for children under three”. Look for other safety labels including: “Flame retardant/Flame resistant” on fabric products and “Washable/hygienic materials” on stuffed toys and dolls.
- Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. A damaged or dangerous toy should be thrown away or repaired immediately.
- Edges on wooden toys that might have become sharp or surfaces covered with splinters should be sanded smooth. When repainting toys and toy boxes, avoid using leftover paint, unless purchased recently, since older paints may contain more lead than new paint, which is regulated by CPSC. Examine all outdoor toys regularly for rust or weak parts that could become hazardous.
- Teach children to put their toys safely away on shelves or in a toy chest after playing to prevent trips and falls. Toy boxes, too, should be checked for safety. Use a toy chest that has a lid that will stay open in any position to which it is raised, and will not fall unexpectedly on a child. For extra safety, be sure there are ventilation holes for fresh air. Watch for sharp edges that could cut and hinges that could pinch or squeeze. See that toys used outdoors are stored after play — rain or dew can rust or damage a variety of toys and toy parts creating hazards.
- New toys intended for children under eight years of age should, by regulation, be free of sharp glass and metal edges.
- Older toys can break to reveal parts small enough to be swallowed or to become lodged in a child’s windpipe, ears or nose. The law bans small parts in new toys intended for children under three. This includes removable small eyes and noses on stuffed toys and dolls, and small, removable squeakers on squeeze toys.
- Toys with long strings or cords may be dangerous for infants and very young children. The cords may become wrapped around an infant’s neck, causing strangulation. Never hang toys with long strings, cords, loops, or ribbons in cribs or playpens where children can become entangled. Remove crib gyms for the crib when the child can pull up on hands and knees; some children have strangled when they fell across crib gyms stretched across the crib.
- Toys which have been broken may have dangerous points or prongs. Stuffed toys may have wires inside the toy which could cut or stab if exposed. A CPSC regulation prohibits sharp points in new toys and other articles intended for use by children under eight years of age.
- Projectiles — guided missiles and similar flying toys — can be turned into weapons and can injure eyes in particular. Children should never be permitted to play with adult lawn darts or other hobby or sporting equipment that have sharp points. Arrows or darts used by children should have soft cork tips, rubber suction cups or other protective tips intended to prevent injury. Check to be sure the tips are secure. Avoid those dart guns or other toys which might be capable of firing articles not intended for use in the toy, such as pencils or nails.
- Keep toys designed for older children out of the hands of little ones. Follow labels that give age recommendations — some toys are recommended for older children because they may be hazardous in the hands of a younger child. Teach older children to help keep their toys away from younger brothers and sisters.
- Even balloons, when uninflated or broken, can choke or suffocate if young children try to swallow them. More children have suffocated on uninflated balloons and pieces of broken balloons than on any other type of toy.
- Electric toys that are improperly constructed, wired or misused can shock or burn. Electric toys must meet mandatory requirements for maximum surface temperatures, electrical construction and prominent warning labels. Electric toys with heating elements are recommended only for children over eight years old. Children should be taught to use electric toys properly, cautiously and under adult supervision.
- Infant toys, such as rattles, squeeze toys, and teethers, should be large enough so that they cannot enter and become lodged in an infant’s throat.
No matter what toys your children play with, parents must always be vigilant to be sure that the toys aren’t a danger to the youngsters who are enjoying them.
If you need help or advice selecting safe, age-appropriate toys, Safe Kids offers a useful guide on its Web site that you can print out and take with you when you go toy shopping.
The holiday season is a time to enjoy your family and share fabulous moments and free time together. It’s also a time to keep toy safety in mind so you can keep the holidays safe and happy for your loved ones.
Happy New Year from your friends here at MyPhillyLawyer.