Playing is a child’s job, and toys are the tools used to accomplish that job; they help children learn, develop, and explore their surroundings. While most toys are safe, some lead to injuries as a result of a flawed design, defect, or misuse.
Did you know that a child or teen under the age of 18 years-of-age is treated in an emergency room every 3 minutes for a toy-related injury? The biggest risk for children under 5-years-of age is choking on small toys or small parts of larger toys. Nearly 14 young children per day are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing or inhaling toys or toy parts. Children 5 to 17 are more likely to sustain injuries from riding toys, such as scooters, bikes and wagons. Injuries with ride-on toys were 3 times more likely to involve a broken bone or a dislocation than other toys.
Give your children the gift of safety by being aware of these potential dangers and taking the recommended steps to prevent injuries. Before you hit the aisles and stand in long lines (or “let your fingers doing the walking”) for that special gift:
1. Check the age recommendations. Labels on a toy’s packaging can tell you if a toy is appropriate for your child’s age.
2. Follow other manufacturer guidelines for all toys.
3. Use a small parts test device. If a toy fits inside the tube, it is too small and can be a choking hazard for a young child. These test devices are often found at many toy stores and baby specialty stores.
4. Check the diameter. Only children 6 years-of-age and older should play with small balls, marbles, and games with small balls or other small pieces. Any ball smaller than 1.75 inches in diameter can be a choking hazard.
5. Avoid magnets. Magnetic building sets, magnetic jewelry, and other magnetic toys can be swallowed easily and may cause serious internal injuries.
6. Add protective gear. If you give a gift such as a bike or scooter, give protective make a helmet knee pads and elbow pads a part of the gift.
7. Look at the battery compartment. Only buy toys with battery compartments that need a screwdriver to open or have child-resistant locking mechanism. Batteries can be toxic if swallowed.
8. Examine toys carefully, especially toys with small parts that could be choking hazards for young children. Don’t trust that they are safe just because they are on a store shelf.
9. Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at www.saferproducts.gov.
10. Subscribe to www.recalls.gov. See if toys that you may buy have been recalled.
Once the gift is unwrapped:
1. Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for assembly and use.
2. Use the small parts test device again.
3. Only allow your child to ride toys on dry, flat surfaces away from vehicle traffic.
4. Make wearing a helmet a rule. Tell your children that they must wear helmets on scooters, skateboards and other riding toys that require balance. Elbow pads and knee pads are also recommended.
5. Remove tags, strings, and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children. Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard.
6. To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, do not give young children under age 10 a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet.
7. Separate toys. If there are children of different ages in the home, keep toys for older children separate from toys for younger ones.
8. Supervise. Closely supervise any child younger than 8 years-of-age on a riding toy.
Despite progress over the years in making toys safer, the continued presence of hazards in toys highlights the need for constant vigilance on the part of all of us. In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, do not forget the toys you already own. The same safety measures apply, and remember to periodically check existing toys in the toy box for recalls.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.