Category Archives: Child Safety

Kids and Guns, Part 2

Last post I wrote about the importance of keeping guns secured away from unsupervised children, and referenced a great article by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services entitled Gun Safety.  It talks about the frightening statistics regarding kids and firearms, and also sets out the basic rules regarding safely storing and locking up guns.

It also raises an important issue that I don’t see discussed very often – the importance of teaching children the difference between fantasy play and reality.  Part of the wonder of kids is their incredible imaginations.  The bedroom of our four year old, Cate, is in a finished attic.  It’s set up like a loft, and there’s no door so you can hear everything she’s doing from the second floor.  One of my favorite things to do is simply listen to her play.   She creates these intricate characters and scenarios – truly in her own little world.  Likewise Michael, our five year old, happily spends hours playing on the floor with his cars and Lego’s.  He will also pretend to use and shoot guns – whether it be cops and robbers or some other type of game with his sisters or his friends.  We don’t forbid him from playing these games, but we have friends in our neighborhood who are staunchly opposed to guns and absolutely forbid any type of play involving guns.  It doesn’t matter – their sons still fashion sticks, pencils or whatever into pretend guns – it’s just what some kids do.

But what happens, god forbid, if an unsupervised child who’s never been exposed to a real gun comes across one.  Perhaps playing hide and seek on a play date he comes across a box in a closet.  Or opens a drawer in a bedside table. Or is able to open the gun case in the house of a parent who hunts.  This is a situation where it’s critical for a child needs to understand the difference between reality and make believe.  With a real gun, someone who is shot doesn’t come back to life like a cartoon character – the consequences are literally a matter of life or death.

So, talk to your kids about the difference between fantasy and reality – when watching TV, reading a book, or when playing with them.  As with anything you teach your kids, the concept is best reenforced with repetition – not in a way that scares or browbeats them, but so that it’s fun and challenging. Above all, make sure your kids know never to touch a real gun, and if they or their friends ever come across one they should stop, don’t touch and immediately find an adult.  No matter how you feel about guns, when it comes to unsupervised kids, this is something we can all agree on. Stay safe.

Gun Safety and Kids

Since the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Ct, there’s been a lot of debate about whether the country needs stricter gun control measures. Many people understandably have strongly held beliefs on this subject, but there’s one aspect to this issue that we should all agree on – unsupervised children cannot be allowed to have access to guns.  The statistics regarding kids and firearm deaths are staggering, but I’m not here to take a side in the gun control/gun rights battle – I just want to keep them out of the hands of unsupervised kids.

There is lots of web content on the internet about gun safety when it comes to children, and a great, comprehensive document I’ve found is by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.  It’s entitled simply Gun Safety, and, if you have kids or if you own guns, I highly recommend that you read it.

A few of its initial recommendations:

  • Unload and lock up guns
  • Lock and store ammunition separately
  • Hide keys where kids can’t find them
  • Gun safe’s are best, but gun locks/trigger locks can also be effective when used correctly.

These suggestions are pretty self evident, but the article also contains helpful suggestions for how to  teach children the difference between reality and fantasy play, and also separate tips for parents who own guns and parents who don’t. In my next posts, we’ll talk further about those topics.

Accidents Due to Hazardous Children’s Furniture Should Not Happen!

On January 30, a recall was issued for 300 Natart Chelsea Three-Drawer Children’s Dressers Model 3033, by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in cooperation with the manufacturer, Gemme Juvenile, Inc., of Princeville, Quebec, Canada. The recall affects only 300 children’s dressers and is due to a safety hazard. The hazard: The dresser can tip over and entrap a child.

In fact, one such dresser did tip over, entrap and suffocate a two-year old toddler from Barrington, Illinois. The child attempted to climb onto an open lower drawer in order to reach the second dresser drawer, which caused the dresser to tip over on the child. The recall notice says, “When the dresser drawers are pulled all the way out and then the additional weight of a young child is applied, the dresser’s center of gravity can be altered and result in instability of the product [the dresser] and consequently tip over.”

There are so many questions–and while any conscientious manufacturer would suffer from such an experience, I ask once again, why don’t manufacturers know within a reasonable range what can happen before releasing their products to the children’s furniture marketplace? Are children’s furniture products no longer being tested for safety before being imported to the U.S.? This particular dresser, according to the CPSC notice of recall, was manufactured before the May 2009 voluntary industry standard was issued. So, one might ask why didn’t the manufacturer recall the dressers when the voluntary industry standard changed?

This is a terrible reminder to parents of young children: Accidents with young children can happen very fast and toddlers should never be left alone. Young children need supervision.

The recalled children’s dressers were sold at Furniture Kidz and juvenile specialty stores and on line by from January 2005 to December 2010 for from $600 to $900. If you have one of these, immediately stop using the dresser and remove it from your children’s access. Retrofit kits with wall anchor straps to keep the dresser from tipping are now being offered by the manufacturer for free, and consumers can contact the company by calling toll-free 1-855-364-2619 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

The CPSC would like everyone to know: “Every two weeks a child dies when a piece of furniture or a television falls on them.” All TVs and furniture should be anchored to prevent tipping.

Seatbelts, Booster Seats and Back-Over Accidents

“Children don’t need to be in a car to be hurt by one” is a phrase that has percolated in my mind over the past week. Where we live in Virginia, I see at least one young child in a car not buckled in a seatbelt or safely protected by a booster seat, perhaps once a week. I rarely, if ever, see young children turned around facing backward in the backseat. Often I want to say something to the drivers–in a thoughtful way–but offering free advice about a hot-button issue like seatbelts or booster seats can elicit a hostile response. So we will continue to raise the issue in ChildSafetyBlog. Here, we are probably as sensitive to this issue as many people who see young adult drivers texting or adults simply using their phone, while driving. Yet, in our view, parents who transport children by car without at least fastening seatbelts or protecting them in a booster seat are clearly not using their best judgment.

To be protected very young children should remain in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least 20 pounds in weight and a year old. Babies can be vulnerable to head and spine injuries in the case of a car crash, if their car seats are not rear facing. Some parents are concerned that their children may sustain leg injuries if their seats face backward, but thus far, there is no evidence of kids receiving leg injuries because their car seats were facing the back.

We were surprised to learn recently that many parents have actually given up booster seats for children between the ages 4 and 8–even though children can sustain serious injuries without booster seats. Booster seats are especially helpful because the child is raised to a height where the seat belt fits properly across lap and chest. Strapping children snugly in their seats is also a key to safety. If parents loosen the straps for any reason, they need to remember before they go on their way, to tighten them again. One more caution to parents and caregivers is to make sure when you send your child in someone else’s car, that the driver has your child’s booster seat to use for your child. You might even think about purchasing an extra, basic booster seat to use for this purpose.

Back to the earlier statement, kids don’t need to be in cars to be hurt by them. Backing over children is still a terrible tragedy no parent or caregiver should ever experience. The statistics are shocking: Fatal backing accidents kill at least 228 people every year — 110 of them are children under age 10 — and injure 17,000.[1] We have passed the end of 2012, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who pushed back the deadline to publish the new rules for car manufacturers, promised this would be done by the end of the year. The new rules would mandate new manufacturing requirements to improve the visibility behind passenger vehicles and help prevent fatal backing crashes. We want to know why this hasn’t happened? The response of “added costs to the auto industry”-in light of their current profits–is no longer a viable excuse!

Child Safety Tips for 2013

The old year is gone but not forgotten. Many poignant news stories remind us how important child safety is and how we are challenged as parents and caregivers to protect children at home, in school and at play. Our greatest wish is for everyone to have a healthy, happy, safe New Year 2013. Here are a few child safety reminders to help make your home safer:

1) Stay focused on your child. If your young child is at home, keep a close watch. Be on the same floor or in the same room if possible. Don’t spend so much time connected to your devices that you forget your kids are there with you and need your attention, supervision and care.

2) Child proof your home. If you have young ones crawling, climbing and seeking to stand, put things they should not have high up (or lock them away). Cover the electrical sockets and lock the bathroom cabinets. Tablecloths with hot dishes can be pulled. TVs should be attached to the wall–not resting on a cabinet, as kids can pull them over when climbing.

3) Don’t leave dangerous items that might look like edibles about. Children love to put things in their mouths. Carefully put away button or other small batteries, pills, beads, buttons, magnets, and sharps such as scissors, pins or sewing needles, and craft accessories (glitter, glue, glue sticks, glue guns) etc., after use.

4) Make sure to stow away household chemicals and cleaners after use– especially ammonia, chlorinated cleansers, toilet bowl cleaners, bleach, and drain cleaners which can cause chemical burns, eye and respiratory irritations and worse. They need to be on a shelf high up in a lockable cabinet–where even the most curious climbers cannot get to them.

5) To minimize more than one household hazard, dispose of trash regularly. Take old newspapers, magazines and other periodicals to the local recycling area or dump. Dispose of any chemically soaked cleaning rags that can spontaneously combust.

6) Dress young children warmly for outdoor winter play, layering their clothing–but making sure clothing as well as shoes and boots, are not so tight that they cut off the circulation. Kids need to be warm and able to breathe well. Bring them in doors for a juice or snack break when you feel they’ve been out long enough.

7) Pay attention to your children’s exposure to the sun. Playing out of doors is wonderful, but make sure their tender skin is not exposed to too much sun which may cause them skin problems in the future. Keep fresh sun block on hand for those noses, cheeks, ears, arms and hands–even in the winter.

Dangerous Toys of 2012

If you have been wondering about the safety of children’s toys on the market this holiday season and whether certain toys are safer than others, there is an organization which has done some of the homework for you. The consumer watchdog, U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), has examined the array of toys for sale this season, and is pleased to note that “toys today are safer than they’ve ever been before, [but] there are still dangerous and/or toxic toys on store shelves.”

The group’s “Trouble in Toyland” report reviewed 200 toys purchased at toy retailers, such as Toys R Us and Target and dollar-type stores. The report issued shortly before Thanksgiving noted that there weren’t as many toxic toys on the shelves as expected. Nasima Hossain, a public health advocate with PIRG recommends parents still watch for common hazards in toys when toy shopping. Common hazards in toys can be:

  • Toys that contain sharps–anything that could cut, puncture or stick a child;
  • Toys with small detachable parts that could pose a choking hazard;
  • Toys that contain toxic chemicals, such as lead or phthalate levels higher than allowable limits;
  • Toys that require heat or electricity and could pose a fire/burn hazard;
  • Toys that explode or implode, or smoke–again, watch for a fire or inhalation hazards;
  • Toys that shoot projectiles, such as the “Dart Zone Quick Fire 12 dart gun” which was identified as having a potential to produce eye injuries;
  • Toys that could become unsafe for young children that might be safer for older children;
  • Toys that contain high-powered magnets, sold as “Bucky Balls” or toys that contain button batteries that can be swallowed;
  • Water absorbing toys that can expand if ingested, such as the Water Balz toys by Dunecraft (94,700 of these were recalled yesterday by the CPSC);
  • Toys or child furniture that are flimsy or that appear not to be well put-together (and may collapse on a child, such as the toy wooden puppet stages recalled during the year); and
  • Toys that are too loud and can be harmful to children’s ears because they exceed the current noise standards.

The PIRG identified specific toys as containing hazards, including the Dora Backpack, by Global Design Concepts Inc., for its apparently high phthalate levels, and the Dora Tunes Guitar for its excessive loudness. Another toy, “Snake Eggs” made by GreenBrier International Inc. was found to be an ingestion hazard, and the Morphbot toy, also by GreenBrier, was identified as having high lead levels. The “Just Like Home 120-piece Super Play Food Sets” sold by Toys R Us, were identified as containing choking hazards for small children, as were the “Pullback Dragster Cars by Z Wind Ups” found to have choking hazards and warning labels too small to be easily read. wishes you a safe and healthy holiday season!

Four More Infant Deaths Due to Nap Nanny Infant Recliners

Those who follow may be as sad and disappointed as we were when they learn that there have been four more deaths of babies in Nap Nanny infant recliners. In July 2010 we published a post to alert parents and caregivers about this dangerous piece of child furniture, so hearing this news is difficult. Perhaps if there were more thorough scrutiny of these products before they arrived on the market shelves…perhaps if more people paid attention to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls…

There are a million questions one could ask–but their answers don’t change the results. Nothing will bring these children back to life. Their lives were cut short by the use of less-than-safe baby products. My question from July 30, 2010, still stands: Aren’t there engineers who look closely at children’s products to determine whether they are really safe before they arrive on the market shelves?

The company that produced and sold the Nap Nanny infant recliners is bankrupt. The federal government is suing. Unfortunately, this is too little, too late. A loud public outcry… now… may save more children from this dangerous piece of baby furniture… but parents, caregivers and the public still need to be cautioned:

  • If you think a piece of children’s furniture, product or toy might not be safe, it probably is not. Check for recalls, safety standards for children’s furniture and products–including cribs and baby beds;
  • Please pay attention to children’s product, toy and furniture recalls online and in the news–and if you see a child’s toy, baby furniture, or children’s product at a yard sale, DO NOT BUY IT unless you check it first on the list of recalls on, to learn if it has already been recalled;
  • If you own recalled children’s furniture, toys or baby products, please don’t re-sell them. Selling or attempting to sell a recalled item is illegal. Much of the time, consumers can contact the manufacturing company for a refund or an exchange. If you cannot get a refund or a replacement item, then it’s best to destroy the recalled item, place it in a black plastic bag and deliver it to the dump, so it can never be used again or harm a child!

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!

PeaPod Travel Beds Recalled

As we get close to the holidays and parents and family members begin to shop for safe toys and gifts for families with young children, will highlight some children’s products which, due to safety factors, you may wish to avoid. This one was brought to our attention by a mother with a young child, which, after having been on the market since 2005, is only just now being recalled.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and KidCo Inc. of Libertyville, Illinois, have announced a voluntary recall of 220,000 PeaPod and PeaPod Plus Travel Beds because an infant or young child could become trapped between the inflatable air mattress and the fabric sides of the tent-type bed and suffocate. In December 2011, a 5-month old child found in this type of tent could not be revived. There have been at least six reports of children who have become entrapped or who experienced some physical distress while they were in this tent.

This type of product has been marketed for use by infants from birth to over three years of age. The tents were sold in several colors and have an inflatable air mattress which fits in a zippered pocket beneath the floor of the tent. A zippered side opening permitted parents and caregivers to place the child in and take the child out of the tent. The tents fold and come with a storage bag for convenience in transporting the tent. Model numbers are located on a tag on the underside of the tent; models/colors of tents being recalled are: P100 Teal, P101 Red, P102 Lime, P103 Periwinkle, P104 Ocean, P201 Princess/Red, P202 Camouflage, P203 Quick Silver, P204 Sagebrush, P205 Cardinal, and P900CS Green. The tents were manufactured in China and sold by children’s stores throughout the country and online by from January 2005 to the present, for from $70 to $100.

The CPSC is advising consumers to stop using the tents immediately and to contact KidCo for a free repair kit. The repair kits depend upon the model, so consumers will need the model number to arrange for the proper repair kit.

Consumers can contact KidCo by calling their toll free number (beginning in December) 1-855-847-8600 from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by visiting the Firm’s website at

To view photos of the recalled tents, please visit the CPSC website:

A Safety Update on Button Batteries and Magnets

by Marianne Frederick is pleased that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has set standards for children’s products and toys that bear magnets, so you may not see the tiny batteries and magnets formerly used in many children’s toys. But, adult desk and “stress relief” toys containing those same small magnets and batteries have produced another challenge: Young kids are still getting hold of button batteries and magnets and swallowing them, sometimes with disastrous results.

Parents and caregivers, when you think about giving a gift this holiday season, if the gift requires batteries, take a look at the size of the batteries and/or magnets and if they are tiny and can be swallowed by a child in the gift recipient’s family, nix the gift. Consider giving another type of desk decoration.

You will also find the disc-shaped magnets and tiny batteries in singing greeting cards and jewelry, so please keep your eyes peeled and keep products with small or loose magnets away from young children who might swallow them. In addition, don’t buy magnets sold in sets of 100 or more, as it could be hard to tell if a few magnets disappear. Have a talk with bigger kids about the dangers of magnets and using them as fake piercings in their mouths or noses… big kids can get hurt by magnets too. If a relative or holiday visitor in your home wears or removes a hearing aid that uses the tiny batteries, ask them not to leave the batteries anywhere a child can get to them.

Be aware of the symptoms of magnet/battery ingestion:

  • Abdominal pain, vomiting and fever. Since these symptoms are common in kids and not always caused by ingesting magnets/batteries or other objects, you may not suspect what has transpired immediately.
  • Treatment should not be delayed–the possibility of severe injuries to the digestive tract, stomach, intestines–and even death–are possible.
  • Contact your pediatrician or take your child to the nearest emergency room immediately if you suspect your child has swallowed or been injured by a magnet or button battery. If there are any signs of choking or respiratory difficulty, CALL 911.

If a child in your home is injured from swallowing a small magnet or button battery, after you have attended to your child’s needs, please report the injury to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, by visiting on the Internet, or by calling 1-800-638-2772.