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Children's Health

Keeping Toys Safe for Children

Boy toddler playing with colorful plastic stacking toy

For  children, toys and fun go hand in hand.  But some toys can pose dangers, making it important for parents to consider carefully what their children play with.

In 2012, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that about 192,000 toy-related injuries to children under the age of 15 were treated in hospital emergency departments.  Most of these incidents involved:

Toys have also caused death among children, including:

  • airway blockage from small toys
  • drowning
  • motor vehicle-related injuries during play.

 

Choosing Safe Toys

If you are planning to buy toys for a child, consider the following guidelines suggested by Prevent Blindness America:

  • Inspect all toys.
    • Make sure the toy is suitable for the child's age and ability.
    • Read all warnings and instructions on the box.
    • Look for the letters "ASTM" on the toy or box to be sure that the product meets safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Buy toys that are sturdy and can withstand impact without breaking into jagged pieces.
  • Avoid toys with:
    • sharp points
    • spikes
    • rods
    • dangerous edges.
  • Avoid toys that shoot or have parts that fly off.  These cause a large number of serious eye injuries and can rob children of their sight.  BB guns are NOT toys!
  • Do not buy toys with long strings or cords, especially for infants and very young children.  These can wrap around a child’s neck. In addition, keep in mind that certain toys can often lead to toy-related injuries:

 

The following toys require extra caution:

  • Bicycles, scooters, skateboards, in-line skates, riding toys. Falls and crashes can be deadly. These gifts should always include protective gear such as helmets.  Make sure the helmet fits and that the child wears it at all times.

  • Marbles, small balls, and small parts. Do not give toys with small parts to young children.  Young kids tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking.  If the part of a toy can fit in a toilet paper roll, the toy is not suitable for children under the age of 3.

  • Balloons. Children under 8 years old should not play with latex balloons. They can choke or suffocate on un-inflated or broken balloons. More children have suffocated from balloons than from any other type of toy. Pick up and throw away broken balloons right away.  

  • Magnets. For children under 6 years old, avoid play sets with small magnets and make sure batteries are secured within the toy.  Swallowing high-powered magnets or button batteries can cause very serious injuries and even death.

  • Chargers and adapters. Children should not have access to charging batteries. Chargers can cause burns.

 

Playing Safely

After children have opened new toys, immediately remove the plastic packaging to prevent suffocation. Keep cords and strings out of reach because of the risk of strangulation. Children will often try to play with anything they can reach if you let them. You should also inspect toys for quality and durability and explain to your child how to use the toy.

Supervise children when they play. Always have children use any toy labeled “supervision required” in the presence of an adult. Even a quiet activity such as a craft with scissors, glue, and markers has the potential for injury.

When children are done playing, pick up and put away all toys to avoid tripping or falling on objects.

 

Toy Recalls

Toys are sometimes recalled for safety concerns. Information about recalled toys and other products is posted at http://www.recalls.gov/. If you discover that a toy you own has been recalled, return it to the manufacturer or throw it away. Do not try to fix it, keep it, or give it away.

Paint and plastic parts of toys can include lead, especially if they are made outside of the United States. Because children like to put toys in their mouths, this can be a source of lead exposure, which can cause very serious health problems. Check  Recalls.gov to find out about recalls of toys with lead.

 

More Buying Tips

Visit the websites below for more information about safe gift-buying for children this season.  

 

By taking these precautions and being aware of risks, toys will remain a fun part of the holiday season.

 

Source:  Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries Calendar Year 2012, United States Consumer Product Safety Commission

 

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Last Reviewed: Dec 10, 2013

Gary A Smith, MD, DrPH Gary A Smith, MD, DrPH
Professor of Pediatrics, Epidemiology, & Emergency Medicine
College of Public Health
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University