Skates, tricycles, toy trucks and cars, wagons and balls are among children’s favorite playthings. But in one year, according to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates, there were 150,000 toy-related injuries serious enough to require hospital emergency room treatment.
Falls are the most frequent kind of accident, but many serious injuries result from children swallowing small parts of placing tiny toys in noses or ears, from exploding gas-powered toys, flammable products and sharp edges.
Each year, some 5,000 new toys enter the marketplace. The holiday season finds over 150,000 different kinds of toys for sale in approximately one million stores.
Despite the efforts of manufacturers, retailers, safety inspectors and others, it is impossible to examine every toy. But it is possible for parents and other relatives to check every new toy they buy and every old toy around the house for possible hazards.
Select toys with care. Choose carefully, and look for good design and quality construction in the toys you buy.
Watch out for toys that have sharp edges, small parts or sharp points. Avoid toys that produce extremely loud noises that can damage hearing and propelled objects that can injure eyes.
Buy toys that suit the child’s age, interest and abilities. Avoid toys that are too complex for young children. Many toys have a suggested age range to help you choose toys that are appealing as well as safe.
Be a label reader. Look for safety information such as “Not recommended for children under 3 years of age,” or “non-toxic” on toys likely to end up in little mouths, or “washable/hygienic materials” on stuffed toys and dolls.
Check with parents before you buy a child a toy that requires close supervision — electrically operated toys, shooting toys and games, chemistry sets, and the like. Remember, too, that younger children may have access to toys intended for older children once the toy has been brought into the home.
Look for the U L (Underwriters Laboratories) seal on electrical toys. It indicates the electrical parts have been tested for safety.
Once the toys have been given, it is important to teach proper use of toys. Sit down and play with the child receiving the toy. It is always good to check the instructions and explain to the child how to use the toy. Try to supervise the child, learn to spot “an accident about to happen.”
Check toys periodically for broken parts and potential hazards. A dangerous toy should be repaired immediately or thrown away. Sharp or splintered edges on wooden toys should be sanded smooth.
Use only non-toxic paint on toys or toy boxes. Check outdoor toys for rust and weak or sharp parts that could become hazardous.
Teach children to put their toys away so they don’t get broken and so that no one trips, steps or falls on them.
Toy boxes, too, should be checked for safety. A toy chest should have a lightweight lid that can be opened easily. For extra safety, be sure there are ventilation holes.
Watch for sharp edges that could cut and hinges that could pinch. Attach rubber bumpers to the front corners of a toy chest so little fingers won’t be caught by a slammed lid.
Toy shelves are another storage possibility. Opens shelves allow the child to see favorite toys and return them to the shelf after play. Be sure the shelf is sturdy and won’t tip over if the child climbs on it.
Toy safety is very important. Make sure you are selecting age appropriate toys that the child can enjoy with little chance for getting hurt.