The safety of our children and the toys they play with is of concern to all parents. It is inconceivable that a toy maker would produce a product that might injure or kill a child, but this is the sad truth. While there are far more watch dogs and parent groups these days who evaluate the risk different toys pose, it is still up to those who care for children to make educated decisions regarding what toys end up in their homes. <!–split–>
Hospital emergency rooms treat about 217,000 toy-related injuries each year. An average of 15 children under the age of 14 die each year from one of these injuries. By following some simple guidelines, we can help prevent a tragic injury or death from something meant to be innocent and fun.
Balloons have been banned from pediatric wings of hospitals because they are the leading cause of suffocation deaths in children. This can happen while the child is trying to blow up a balloon, or from sucking or chewing on it. The un-inflated balloon gets stuck in the child’s small throat when he takes in a breath. While most deaths occurred in children under six years of age, some older children have also suffocated.
Crib toys that are strung across a crib or play pen must be removed when the baby is about five months old. Once they can pull themselves up, they can get tangled in the toy and strangle.
Necklaces, straps, and cords can also become wrapped around a child’s neck. Any toy with a string, cord, or strap should be kept out of the reach of a young child. The straps on toy guitars have been known to strangle youngsters.
The most frequent cause of a toy related death is choking on a small part. There are “small parts testers” available to help you determine what size is dangerous. You can also use an empty toilet paper roll. If a part fits inside the roll, it is too small for little children to safety play with it.
Select appropriate toys for the child’s age. There are written guidelines on most toys, and any toy store can guide your selection. Here are some general tips:
- Under age 1: activity quilts, stuffed animals without button noses, bath toys, cloth books
- Age 1-3: musical toys, large balls, shape toys, books, push and pull toys, blocks
- Age 3-5: simple art supplies, dolls, musical instruments, tricycles, swings, slides
- Age 5-9: crafts, jump ropes, puppets, books, trains, sports equipment, learning toys
- Age 9-14: pick-up sticks, board games, outdoor and sports equipment, computers, marbles
To keep the toys of older children away from younger children, teach the older kids to put their things away after playing with them. Keep the toys for different age groups separated. Toy chests must have safety hinges to prevent them from accidentally closing on a child. If your toy chest doesn’t have these special hinges, take the lid off the chest. Actively supervise children who are playing with a toy that has small parts, electric or battery power, moving parts, or any potentially dangerous parts. Active supervision does not mean just looking in on the kids, but keeping them within sight and reach.
Follow these safety tips, and keep our kids safe.
- Consider the child’s age before buying a toy
- Read labels and follow safety guidelines
- Keep small parts away from kids under 3
- Throw away a toy’s packaging before giving it to a small child
- Be sure caregivers and grandparents are aware of safety concerns
- Store toys according to their age level
- Check all toys (old and new) for small parts and sharp edges
Kara Ade, Parish Nurse