Holiday Toy Safety

This week, holiday toy catalogs are loading up mailboxes throughout the country. Having reviewed several of them and the toys they advertise with mixed feelings, I believe parents, caregivers and family members need to watch out for some unsafe toys on the market this season.

There are brightly colored, attractive plastic toys–sold under reputable brand names that bear little or no warnings about having possibly detachable parts. And it’s not only children’s toys to watch out for: Adult desk toys can easily get into the hands of little ones and sometimes contain magnets or small balls. There are quite a number of toys that look cool but could create dangers for young children. If you think a toy could be unsafe, it probably is. Some toys which are okay for older children can create trouble for a little one, such as toys with small parts or balls that could get lodged in a throat or windpipe, toys that use heat or electricity to run them, or contain chemicals, or coins. If there are toddlers in the home, you can expect them to be curious, so you need think about the safety of the entire family when purchasing toys.

Many people not only buy toys for their own children but often for the children of friends and relatives. One helpful hint when buying toys for other children is to contact their parents to learn what they already have in their toy chest and, not only what they like, but what type of toy their parents would approve of them receiving. Beyond the type of toy, parents also need to think about what children are ready to play with–stretching a child’s capabilities can be good, but giving a child a toy that is far beyond the level of their hand-eye coordination, for example, or for which they have not reached a certain level of learning could create a safety disaster as well as disappointment.

For young children, toys to avoid are toys with sharp edges, small detachable parts, “bucky” balls, small magnets, attachments, or batteries that can be swallowed, and toys with lead paint or that contain toxic materials. Plush toys that are too big for small children and toys with plastic or rubber masks also present the danger of suffocation, and they are on the market. KidsHealth from Nemours[1][1] suggests the following when going to purchase toys:

  • If purchasing toys made of fabric, they should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant;
  • Stuffed toys need to be washable;
  • Toys that are painted need to be painted with lead-free, non-toxic paint;
  • Art supplies need to be labeled “non-toxic”;
  • Crayons and paints should say “ASTM D-4236 on the package which means they have been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials;
  • Avoid older toys which are hand-me-downs, or worn out toys that can break and become hazardous;
  • Make sure if a toy makes sounds that the sounds are not too loud for your child–especially when a little one holds it close to their ears!

We hope these hints are helpful to you as you shop for safe toys this season!

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