’Tis the season for giving, and both online and traditional merchants are eagerly promoting gadgets and toys for the children in your life. But before you add them to your cart, follow these toy-buying tips to make sure your purchases are the safest choices for the kids on your shopping list.
Match toys to kids’ ages
Check the toy’s packaging for age restrictions to ensure the gift is appropriate. These age guidelines take into account the game or toy’s compatibility with a child’s maturity, interest level, and risk for choking or injury.
You will also want to consider other children who live in the household. An eight-year-old may be excited to receive a jewelry-making set, complete with hundreds of small beads, but if there’s a two-year-old in the house, it might not be the best present.
“One of the many things we’ll see is toddlers putting beads into their nose or ears, and most often they found them in an older sibling’s playthings,” says Nancy Pook, MD, emergency medicine physician and medical director of the Network Operations Command Center at Kettering Health.
If you have children in your home, supervision is key, especially if you have an older child with more complex toys and games. Find something age-appropriate to keep your little one occupied.
Avoid toys with small parts
The most common toy-related incident seen with young children is their eating or breathing in objects—so it’s essential to keep small toys, especially those with small plastic parts that can’t be seen on an X-ray, stored away.
“Be attentive to what’s in the child’s environment,” Dr. Pook says. “Keep things organized and put them in bins so the baby or toddler can’t get into something that may be sitting around.”
Ingestion of batteries—especially button batteries—can also be a dangerous risk for young children, as they can cause damage in just a couple of hours, says Dr. Pook.
“Occasionally things like lead exposure will pop up in recently manufactured toys, but it’s rare,” Dr. Pook says. “Unfortunately, you just have to pay attention to safety warnings that come out later if it’s a brand-new, manufactured toy.”
For that reason, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the news during the first few weeks after popular toys have hit homes as holiday gifts.
More Toy-Buying Tips
The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these additional toy safety tips:
- Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air.They can cause serious eye injuries or choking.
- Avoid toys that are loud to prevent hearing damage.
- Choose stuffed toys that are well made: all parts on tight, secure seams and edges, machine washable. Remove loose ribbons or strings to prevent strangulation. Avoid toys with bean-like pellets or stuffing that can cause choking if swallowed.
- Buy sturdy plastic toys. Thin plastic may break easily.
- Avoid toys with toxic materials. Make sure the label says “nontoxic.”
- Avoid hobby kits and chemistry sets for any child younger than 12 years. They can cause fires or explosions and may contain dangerous chemicals. Make sure your older child knows how to safely handle these kinds of toys.
- Electric toys should be “UL Approved.” Check the label.
Know what to do
Prevention of risky situations is crucial to keeping your children safe; however, if an accident happens, you should know what to do. If a swallowed toy is blocking the child’s airway, it might be appropriate to perform the Heimlich maneuver, but you will want to call 911 immediately.
Even if your child is breathing and does not appear distressed, it is still a good idea to bring them to the emergency department where doctors have special tools to remove the foreign bodies.
Know where to go
Kettering Health has 13 emergency centers throughout Southwest Ohio, so emergency care is always nearby. Visit ketteringhealth.org/emergency to find the closest emergency center to you.