Barbara LeBlanc, LCSW-BACS

Tis the season for holiday parties, ugly sweaters and lots of shopping – especially for your kids. There are so many toy options to choose from that it can be overwhelming. Part of the challenge is finding a toy that your child will enjoy but that is also safe. The biggest threat to the health of children older than 1 year is not disease, but accidental injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), each year thousands of children suffer injuries from toys that are severe enough to be treated in a hospital emergency room.

Guidelines for Buying Safe Toys

To make sure a toy is appropriate for your young child, check the label. In general, most toys on the market today are safe. But despite tough government regulations and toy makers’ efforts to test products, injuries still happen. The first step in preventing toy-related injuries is to know what to look for.

Toy makers follow the guidelines established by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in determining the age grading of a toy. The CPSC now requires labeling on toys designed for children between the ages of 3 and 6 that can pose a choking hazard for children under age 3. The labels must specifically state that the toy is unsafe for children under 3 and the reason for the warning. According to CPSC, among toy-related deaths, the leading cause was choking on small balls or toy parts.

Avoiding Choking Hazards

  • Avoid letting your toddler (ages 3 and under) play with small toys and parts. Children in this age group still “mouth” objects which can lead to accidental ingestion or choking. A small parts tester can help determine if an object is a choking risk.
  • Make sure that the toy is sturdy and that no small parts (such as eyes, noses, buttons, wheels, or other parts) can break off the toy.
  • Choose well-made stuffed animals.
  • Choose toys made of durable materials with no sharp edges or points.
  • Avoid toys that shoot or have parts that fly off.
  • Batteries and magnets, especially small ones, can be particularly dangerous.
  • Do not allow young children to play with latex balloons.
  • Don’t buy hobby kits or chemistry sets for children under 12.

More Advice

  • Check under your furniture and between seat cushions for choking risks. These include coins, marbles, watch batteries, magnets, buttons, or pen and marker caps.

The best way to protect your young child from injury is to supervise him or her when playing with toys and to provide safe, hazard-free environments for both inside and outside play. Go to Consumer Product Safety Commission for more toy safety tips and toy recalls.

Barbara B. LeBlanc, LCSW-BACS is the Director of The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital and grandmother to two beautiful granddaughters and eagerly awaiting one baby boy.

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