The holidays are a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends. Part of the holiday fun for many includes buying toys for children. In the fast passed holiday season, it is important to take time purchase toys that are both fun and safe. Every year thousands of children suffer serious personal injury or are killed by toys. Having handled product liability cases including those involving children's toys, I have combined my thoughts on toy safety with some excellent advice offered by Cincinnati Children's Hospital and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Buy Age Appropriate Toys: Virtually all toys these days have a label indicating the minimum age recommended for the toy. This is important for not only how likely the child will enjoy the toy given their age, but also whether the toy is safe for the child. Some toys for older children are dangerous younger children. This is particularly true for children under the age of two who are at higher risk for choking on toys.
Buy Sturdy Toys Without Sharp Corners: Purchase toys with sturdy construction. Flimsy, cheap or otherwise poorly constructed toys can break easily and injure a child. Likewise, toys with sharp corners can be dangerous especially for very young children. The biggest concern with sharp corners is the risk of eye injuries.
Avoid Choking Hazard Toys: Choking hazards are among the most common causes of deadly toy injuries. Most choking hazards are caused by small balls, latex balloons, magnets, and small component parts. Toys that are less than one inch in diameter and/or less than 2 inches in length pose a serious choking risk to small children, as they can become lodged in a child's throat.
Avoid Strangulation Hazard Toys: Some toy products come with a string. For babies and young children, these toys pose a risk of strangulation. This also includes simple items like balloons with strings attached and pull string toys.
Avoid Toys That Shoot Objects: Some toys shoot objects, like darts, balls, and other objects. These toys can cause serious eye injuries. Some of these toy manufacturers seek to minimize the risk of eye injuries by making the projectile object with a soft tip (such as some nerf or nerf like products). However, if the object is shot at a high speed, even soft objects can result in blunt force eye injuries.
Avoid Toys With Harmful Chemicals: As we have heard increasingly over the years, there are still some toys that are manufactured with harmful chemicals like lead or cadmium. Cheaper toy cars and toy jewelry are more prone to these dangerous chemicals. Fortunately, many toys now include language like non-toxic, indicating the toy does not have harmful chemicals.
Read Warning Labels And Instructions Carefully: For every toy, it is important to read all warning labels. Many of these warning labels contain information on risks parents would not even consider. The instructions also provide important information including how to use and not use the toy. Finally, after reading the warnings and instructions, go over this information with the child before allowing them to play with the toy.
Supervise How The Child Plays With The Toy: Carefully researching a toy before purchase is an important first step in avoiding toy injuries. However, parents and caregivers should also monitor how the child plays with the toy. As many know, children can be unpredictable in how they decide to play with a toy--including ways that were never intended. The only way to ensure a child plays with a toy properly is to supervise the child while they play with the toy.
Consult The Consumer Product Safety Commission: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (or CPSC) is an invaluable government agency when it comes to investigating toy safety hazards and recalls. The agency was set up to protect against unreasonable risks of injuries associated with consumer products, including toys. Among other responsibilities, the agency sets up rules and guideless regarding toy safety and issues product recalls if a (clear) problem has been identified. Product recalls have been issued for a variety of dangers, including for toys that have unsafe chemical levels, present choking hazards, and pose fire hazards. For more information on toy safety, consult the CPSC website at www.cpsc.gov.
Medical News Today, Doctors At Cincinnati Children's Offers Toy Advice For Children During Holidays, December 3, 2011.
Healthy Children Website, citing American Academy of Pediatrics, A Parents Guide to Toy Safety, 2008.