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Toy Safety

StreetWise Parents' Guide

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Toy Safety

Learn some of the hazards of unsafe toys and how to protect your children from injury.

Toy Safety

When children think of toys, they think FUN! That's as it should be. But parents need to think safety first in selecting enjoyable toys for their children or in helping children select toys. Children can be seriously injured or killed by inappropriate or worn-out toys. Following these tips can help provide carefree playtime for your children, and parental peace of mind.

Choose Age-Appropriate Toys

When choosing toys, make sure that they are appropriate for your child's age and development as well as his or her interests. Although it may be fine to buy a winter coat or pair of jeans that your child will grow into, this approach is not wise when selecting toys. For example, toys intended for older children may have small parts that could detach and choke a young child. A child using a piece of sporting equipment (from a helmet or bat to a bicycle or scooter) that's too large is at greater risk of accidents and injury.

Check Toys Often For Breakage and Wear

Children play hard, and toys can take a beating. Stuffing may start to come out. Parts can loosen. Edges can wear away, becoming sharp. Wooden surfaces can develop splinters. Internal wires, prongs, or points may become exposed. Outdoor toys may rust or crack. So check toys regularly for hazardous breakage and wear. Why not make your child part of the "inspection team"?

Reject Toys With Small Parts For Young Children

Choking is a major hazard for young children. In fact, it's a leading cause of trips to the emergency room for youngsters in this age group. Why? Small toy parts such as wheels or buttons and small toys such as marbles get easily stuck in a child's ear, nose, or windpipe. Toys for children under 3 are not allowed by law to have small parts including removable eyes and noses on stuffed toys and dolls and removable squeakers on squeeze toys. Young children also put small balls, marbles and ball-like objects in their mouths, presenting choking hazards. In addition to selecting appropriate toys for infants and toddlers, keep toys for older children out of younger children's reach.

Choose Baby Toys that Are "Mouth Safe"

Babies put everything in their mouths, don't they? So, select infant toys, such as rattles, pacifiers, and teethers, that are large enough so that they can't lodge in an infant's throat. If your baby receives a gift appropriate for an older child, save it for later. Also explain to older brothers and sisters why their toys are not right for the baby.

Be Alert For Choking And Strangulation Hazards

Most safety experts recommend using only mylar balloons with children younger than 8. Latex or "rubber" balloons can pose hazards for young children. For example, a child can inhale a balloon when trying to blow it up. Uninflated or broken balloons may appear to be attractive "chew toys" to younger children.

Cords, string, ribbons, and rope can pose strangulation hazards. These can easily become wrapped around a child's neck. In particular, don't hang toys in cribs and playpens using long strings or cords.

A Little Less Noise, Please!

Noisy toys such as toy guns and pistols, music boxes, or robots can damage hearing. Playing music too loud with speakers or through headphones also causes gradual hearing loss. Help children select less noisy toys. If they already have noisy toys, consider ways to reduce the sound. For example if a music box or talking game has no volume control try putting tape over the speakers. If children regularly play the drums or are in a rock band, invest in musician's ear plugs for them.

Watch Out For Flying Objects!

Toys that can shoot or launch items can cause various injuries, especially eye injuries. If your children have such toys, supervise their use closely. Consider avoiding toys where items such as pencils or nails can be substituted for the original projectile.

Use Electrical Toys Safely

Toys that require electricity can pose shock or burn hazards. Check for frayed or damaged cords frequently. Teach children appropriate use of these toys.

Always Store Toys After Use

Toys need to be put away safely to prevent trips and falls. Storing toys on shelves or in open containers works well for most homes and allows children to do the job themselves. If you use a toy chest or box, make sure that the lid will stay open in any position. Also check for sharp edges and hinges that could pinch or squeeze. Any closed toy storage should also have ventilation to prevent suffocation in the event a child becomes trapped inside.

To Learn More About Toy Safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provides a variety of Toy Recall Statistics including a toy safety press release and toy injury statistics

The Toy Safety page on the site of the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) has a list of potentially hazardous toys which is compiled annually.