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Don’t Forget Toy Safety When Christmas Shopping

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month!

As an adult, you might not often think about the possible pain a toy can cause…well, unless you’ve ever stepped on a Lego in the middle of the night! For the 10 and under group, toys are a hugely important part of their lives—they play with them at home, daycare, doctor’s offices, church, friends’ houses, and more. December could be considered “peak toy season” for every child, parent, and grandparent in the country and that’s why it’s important to focus on the safety of the toys we give children this holiday season.

The statistics can be scary: According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 251,700 toy-related injuries in 2010 throughout the United States. Of that number, 72% were to people less than 15 years of age. Additionally, in 2007 alone, toymakers recalled over 19 million toys worldwide because of safety concerns such as lead paint and small magnets.

Shopping Tips from the Experts

Toy dangers may not be obvious, but they exist. The CPSC offers the tips below to use as a guide when shopping for your child, grandchild, nieces, nephews—any child in your life.

Under 3 years of age:

  • Children under 3 tend to put everything in their mouths. Avoid buying toys intended for older children that may have small parts that pose a choking danger.
  • Never let children of any age play with deflated or broken balloons because of the choking danger.
  • Avoid marbles, balls, and games with balls that have a diameter of 1.75 inches or less. These products also pose a choking hazard to young children.
  • Children at this age pull, prod, and twist toys. Look for toys that are well-made with tightly secured eyes, noses, and other parts.
  • Avoid toys with sharp edges and points.

Ages 3 to 5:

  • Avoid toys constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges.
  • Look for household art materials, including crayons and paint sets, marked with the designation “ASTM D-4236.” This means the product has been reviewed for chronic health hazards and, if necessary, the product has been labeled with cautionary information.
  • Teach older children to keep their toys away from younger brothers and sisters.

Ages 6 to 12:

  • For all children, adults should check toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away.
  • If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel, or the entire gun, is brightly colored so that it’s not mistaken for a real gun.
  • If you buy a bicycle for any age child, buy a helmet, too, and make sure the child wears it.
  • Teach all children to put toys away when they’re finished playing so they don’t trip over them or fall on them.

It is also important to read all labels carefully. The CPSC requires toy manufacturers to meet stringent safety standards and to label certain toys that could be a hazard for younger children. Look for labels that give age recommendations to use as a guide. Labels on toys that state “not recommended for children under 3…contains small parts,” are labeled that way for good reason!

Safe Storage is Important Too

Once you’ve insured the toys you’re buying are safe, it’s time to move on to the issue of keeping your home tidy and toys put away to prevent falls, trips, or stubbed toes. The type of storage you choose is more important than you might think.

The CPSC is aware of children dying when lids of containers or chests used for toy storage fell on their heads or necks. There have even been reports of permanent brain damage resulting from such accidents. Many of the deaths involved products specifically manufactured as toy boxes or chests, but some children have died in other containers, such as trunks, footlockers, decorator cubes, and blanket chests. Fatal suffocation incidents have also occurred when children climbed into storage containers to play or hide and became trapped.

A child may use the toy chest to pull herself up, causing the lid to fall from the upright, open position, or when the child attempts to open the lid by himself. A child reaching over and into a toy chest can be trapped by a falling lid.

Choose open chests or bins with no lid; chests with a lightweight, removable lid; or chests with sliding doors or panels to eliminate the risk of a falling lid. If you already own a toy chest with a lid, install hinge supports to prevent falling or make sure the chest has air vents so a child can breathe if he becomes trapped.

Most Dangerous Toys of 2017

If toys aren’t correctly labeled, they may be dangerous for your children to play with. The consumer safety group World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) issues an annual list calling out what they’ve determined to be the most dangerous toys of the year.

At a conference a few weeks ago, consumer advocates from WATCH, demonstrated toys with inconsistent and inadequate warnings, cautions, and age recommendations, as well as other classic safety hazards that continue to re-appear year after year. Here are those the group says to avoid this year:

  • Hallmark “Itty Bittys” Baby Stacking Toy — This toy with four rattling rings is on the market without age recommendations or warnings, which is a big red flag in WATCH’s book. Plus, the toy was still available for purchase online, despite being recalled by the CPSC in August 2017 after they found the fabric hats and bows can detach and pose a choking hazard.
  • Pull Along Pony — This pull toy gets bad marks for having a 19-inch long cord. The industry’s standard for safety requires strings on playpen and crib toys to be less than 12-inches in length as anything longer can present a strangulation hazard.
  • Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword — WATCH wasn’t a fan of the fact this toy encouraged young children to engage in “fighting alongside men in a war to end all wars.” Plus, the rigid plastic sword blade may cause facial or other injuries.
  • Hand Fidgetz Spinners — Despite a warning that it’s a “novelty gift item not intended to be used as a toy,” the spinner is still sold in retail toy aisles and remains popular among children of all ages. Other hazards (like choking) are also associated with small parts.
  • Spider-Man Spider-Drone Official Movie Edition — This performance drone is designed to launch into the air powered by rotating rotor blades. Even with the manufacturers warnings, the risk of injury is concerning.
  • Nerf Zombie Strike Deadbolt Crossbow — Along with encouraging violence, the force of the arrows launched from the crossbow presents the risk of eye or facial injuries.
  • Slackers Slackline Classic Series Kit — Despite being marketed for “all ages,” this tightrope-like device warns of the potential for “severe injury or even death” with use.
  • Oval Xylophone — This musical instrument is sold for babies as young as 12 months old, but WATCH worries about the 9.5-inch long narrow drumstick handle, which has the potential to block a child’s airway.
  • Jetts Heel Wheels — The organization was concerned about the “real sparking” action of these rear-wheel roller skate shoes, which the manufacturer says can burn. The toy also includes this warning: “Using heel wheels can be a dangerous activity that may result in injury or death.”

Oh, and…

Try to steer clear of older toys, even hand-me-downs from friends and family. The toys might have sentimental value and are certainly cost-effective, but they may not meet current safety standards and may be so worn from play they can break and become hazardous.

And make sure a toy isn’t too loud for your child. The noise of some rattles, squeak toys, and musical or electronic toys can be as loud as a car horn—even louder if a child holds it directly to the ears—and can contribute to hearing damage.

If you have questions about any healthcare issue, contact the primary care providers at Coastal Carolina Health Care (CCHC) by calling (252) 633-4111 or by visiting

(Sources: The Mayo Clinic; U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; U.S. Army; Nationwide: Make Safe Happen; Safe Kids Worldwide; World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc.; and Good Housekeeping.)