Parents must consider not only the child’s wishes and interests but the safety of the toys they buy this holiday season. Each year more than 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. Joe Perno, M.D., from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, provides parents with tips to have a safe holiday.
It is very important to pay attention to the recommended ages on the outside of the box. Many times toys designed for older children have multiple small pieces that pose a choking hazard for young children. Children under the age of 3 are particularly at risk as they still will put things in their mouths. Many times we run into problems when there are older children in the house and the younger child gets into the older children’s toys. Lastly, parents should keep an eye out for product safety recalls and consider throwing out broken toys.
Let’s talk about that. What are some common toy hazards and recalls?
Toy recalls happen for a variety of reasons, but typically fall into a few main categories:
- Choking hazards from small parts, including small balls/marbles. If a toy part can fit through a standard toilet paper roll, it is a potential choking hazard for children age 3 and younger. Uninflated balloons may accidentally be swallowed and block the airway. Balloons and small balls should not be given to children younger than 6.
- Magnets. Magnets are becoming smaller and more powerful. When two or more are ingested they can bind together and cause serious intestinal damage. Keep magnetic items intended for adults, as well as toys with magnets that could come loose, away from children.
- Batteries. If swallowed, batteries can leak acid causing severe injury. Button batteries are in many toys and are easy for young children to swallow. Additionally, some toys have rechargeable batteries that require USB charging cables, which can cause burns if overheated.
- High levels of chemicals. Phthalates (often found in certain plastics) and lead (commonly in paint and jewelry items) can adversely affect development. Some slime toys may contain high levels of boron/borax, which is toxic if ingested.
- Excessive noise. Young children have delicate eardrums and toys that are too loud can damage hearing. If it sounds too loud, it probably is.
- Other hazards, such as falls or lacerations resulting from the toy breaking.
What is a surprisingly dangerous toy item that we may think is harmless?
Foam toys. We see many injuries every year from foam projectiles. Although they are soft to the touch they can cause significant damage to the eye. It is important if the children are using any sort of gun that shoots that they wear protective eye wear. Many of the foam guns will actually come with protective glasses; the key is getting the children to wear them.
What are some toy ideas that make great holiday presents and keep kids active?
Bicycles, roller blades and scooters make great holiday gifts and encourage children to get outside and be physically active. The most important thing about these gifts is not to forget about the helmet. Helmets are life saving and should be part of any gift that contains wheels. If it has wheels, you should be wearing a helmet. Safety pads should also be considered; however, the most important is the helmet. We can easily fix broken bones, but it is impossible to fix an injured brain.
Read more about toy safety.
On Call for All Kids is a weekly series featuring Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital medical experts. Visit HopkinsAllChildrens.org/Stories each Monday for the latest report.