The wrong toys can cause serious injuries or death.
It’s the season of giving and that means toys. Whether they’re given to children during Christmas or Hanukkah or donated to toy drives or pediatric hospitals, toys can put smiles on the faces of those who give and those who receive.
However, toys that are unsafe and inappropriate for a child’s developmental stage can be harmful and even cause injuries that send kids to the emergency room.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 226,100 toy-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms across the United States in 2018.
Of those injuries, an estimated 73-percent happened to children younger than 15, and 37-percent of those injured were younger than 5. And nearly half of all those injuries involved the head and face.
So, before you go on that holiday shopping spree, here are some important things to keep in mind when toy shopping.
“Those developmental ages on the box are important,” says Joe Perno, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. He says choking is the most common accident among younger children, who tend to put things in their mouths. Small parts can be dangerous, especially magnets and button batteries.
“You’ve just got to be very cautious with the toys to make sure the parts are appropriate,” he says.
Toys intended for older children should be kept away from younger siblings to ensure they don’t swallow small parts. Also, children with special needs will require toys for ages that match their developmental stage as opposed to their chronological age.
- Check for recalls. You can find the most updated list here.
- To avoid shocks and burns, do not give children under the age of 10 a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy battery-operated toys for those children.
- Children can suffocate on broken or underinflated balloons. Do not allow children younger than age 8 to play with them.
If donating toys to a pediatric hospital, consult the hospital’s website or child life department to see what they are able to accept. Most hospitals are unable to accept stuffed animals due to infection control issues. Also, with a few exceptions, toys must be new, unwrapped and latex-free. All video games should be rated E or E 10-plus.
If giving toys such as scooters, bicycles, skateboards or roller blades, always include protective gear, especially a helmet.
If giving toys that include foam projectiles, always make sure protective eyewear is included, and the children use it.
“Every year, we’ll see an eye injury from this,” Dr. Perno says.
You can find more toy safety tips at the American Academy of Pediatrics.