With December now upon us, it’s hard not to have all things holidays and winter top of mind. I’ve therefore decided to dedicate this month’s weekly blogs to what I consider to some of the most relevant parenting-meets-safety topics of the season. I hadn’t yet decided whether to first write about holiday travel tips, the selection of safe toys for tots, or addressing cold weather & frostbite concerns. But after a long weekend spent bombarded by Black Friday sales ads on television, literally three inches of ad inserts stuffed in Sunday’s paper, and a ridiculous number of CyberMonday emails filling my inbox, I am more convinced than ever that sharing a few important toy safety reminders with you now – during the peak of toy buying season – will go the longest way towards insuring that you and your family have a fun-filled and safe holiday season!
Before we get to the actual toy tips, however, I feel the need to acknowledge the fact that sharing toy-related injury information during this otherwise joyous time of year always makes me feel a bit like the grinch. Unlike the grinch, however (who was clearly in the business of indiscriminately taking away children’s toys), I hope to help you keep unsafe toys out of your children’s hands. To do that, it’s important to acknowledge that there are unsafe toys out there – some inherently unsafe, and others simply unsafe when they fall into the wrong hands.
According to Safe Kids, there were an estimated 181,900 toy-related injuries in 2009 alone – nearly half of which were in children under the age of 5. In order to avoid becoming part of next year’s statistics, I suggest using the following toy safety tips, derived from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Safe Kids, and the American Academy of Pediatrics to guide you in the purchase of safe toys for the holiday season and throughout the year.
- Pay attention to age-restrictions. When the box clearly states that a toy is “For ages 3 and up,” pay heed! I understand that it can be tempting to assume your two-year old is smart enough to handle anything a three-year old can. But when it comes to on-the-box age limits, the recommendation has nothing to do with smarts and everything to do with safety. Simply put, the small parts inside have been determined to pose a very real choking hazard to those under the age of three.
- Keep older siblings’ toys away from younger children. I am well aware that even getting one’s children to share or put away their toys can be a parenting challenge, but for safety’s sake it is especially important to make sure that young children don’t get their hands on the small parts or other safety risks that are meant to be played with exclusively by their older siblings.
- Be aware of top toy hazards. Your child’s wish list isn’t the only one where certain toys rise to the top. The top 5 toy hazards identified by the CPSC include:
- Scooters and other riding toys. It may not make me particularly popular with your children when I tell you that riding toys cause more injuries than any other group of toys. Nor are they likely to want to hear that anything on wheels should always be accompanied by helmets and appropriate safety gear. But popularity is not what I’m after when I tell you that riding toys go fast, and falls can be deadly.
- Small balls and other toys with small parts. Remember the advice to
- While inflated balloons certainly add life to any party, it’s the broken or un-inflated balloons that can cause choking or suffocation and consequently put a child’s life in jeopardy. While the CPSC warns about the risks for children under the age of 8, this sage cautionary advice should be applied to all.
- Small magnets like those found in building, science and other play sets seem to have become quite popular, but have the unfortunate ability to wreak serious havoc on the intestinal tract if swallowed. They really should be avoided altogether for children under 6, and used with caution by older children.
- Chargers and adapters. These toy accessories can pose a serious burn risk to children. If you’re going to purchase toys that require them, be sure you also require adult supervision.
- Read instructions carefully…and then follow them.
- Get rid of any plastic wrappings on toys as soon as your children open them so that they don’t become dangerous play things.
- Keep current on toy safety and other holiday safety tips, as well as any recall information from the CPSC, SafeKids, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Originally posted on Omaha World Herald’s Live Well Nebraska