It’s magical when a child holds a treasured toy for the first time. That precious look in the child’s eyes says it all. For grown-ups, that’s the joy of giving toys for birthdays, holidays — or just because.
But while kids want fun stuff, they need safe playthings too. Thousands of toy-related injuries happen every year. So, keep these safety tips in mind on your next trip down the toy aisle:
Match toys to kids’ ages. Always take the time to check packages for age ranges. Read labels carefully. Labels on toy packages can help you decide if the toy is safe for a child’s age and matches his or her interests and abilities. Toys above a child’s age level may be hazardous.
“A 1- or 2-year-old doesn’t need to be playing with small toy cars, for example, where the wheels could come off and the child could choke on or inhale it,” says Marcus Romanello, MD, chief medical officer and emergency medicine physician at Fort Hamilton Hospital in Hamilton.
Make sure the toy is non-toxic, meaning it doesn’t contain materials that could poison a child.
Button batteries present a life-threatening danger to young children especially if they’re ingested. These types of batteries are smaller and flatter than traditional cell batteries, making them easier for children to swallow.
In addition to avoiding toys with small parts, adults should also watch out for popular toys for older children that pose safety risks. Children using backyard trampolines, non-motorized scooters and skateboards or flash hoverboards risk serious injury. Dr. Romanello recommends helmets and wrist guards for children who are learning to use these toys.
Look for potential hazards. Loud toys can harm a child’s hearing. Strings or ribbons on stuffed animals can cause strangulation—remove them if the gift is for a young child. Small game pieces are fine for older kids, but they may choke a younger child if swallowed.
“Most toys do have a reasonable amount of labeling to suggest if there’s a risk of small parts that children can bite off or eat,” Dr. Romanello says.
Think twice about flying toys. Toys that shoot things into the air can be fun but some parts may injure eyes or be choking hazards. “Read warnings and instructions carefully, especially for toys purchased for babies and toddlers,” Dr. Romanello advises.
For young kids, avoid toys that need to be plugged in. Children under 10 are safer with battery-powered toys instead. Just remember to keep any button batteries, which might be swallowed, away from younger siblings.
Dr. Romanello suggests that you always use reasonable safety precautions during the gift-giving season. “Watch out for being poked in the eye with a new toy sword or an antenna on a radio-controlled car,” he says.