Safe toys for all ages

Filed under: Development/Milestones: Babies

We are all aware that toys are a big part of childhood, but we rarely expect a child's toys to cause injury. However, there are risks and they are real. About 72,000 children younger than 5 went to hospital emergency rooms in 2002 for toy-related injuries. Thirteen children died from toy-related injuries in 2002. Nearly 80 percent were younger than 15. In 2000, 160 children ages 14 and younger died from an obstruction of the respiratory tract due to inhaled or ingested foreign bodies. Of these, 40 percent were caused by food items and 60 percent by nonfood objects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Until fairly recently, little was done to ensure that toys were safe. All of that changed in 1994 when Congress passed The Child Safety Protection Act (CSPA). This law required toy manufacturers to place warning labels on toys containing small parts, including balls, marbles and other choking hazards. The label must state that the toy is not intended for use by children younger than 3. Also, the CSPA increased the size of small balls permitted in toys because of the choking hazard associated with round objects.

In the long run, however, it is parents who decide if toys are safe for your child. Guidelines for selecting safe toys have been issued that include:

1. The most important consideration when selecting toys is the child's age and developmental level. Too often, overzealous parents and friends select toys that are inappropriate for a child's age and skill level. Manufacturers usually include a recommendation for the age level for which the toy is appropriate.

2. Choking remains the leading cause of toy deaths. Most often, those deaths are caused by ingested balloons, balls and small toy parts. Carefully inspect a toy before purchasing it. All toy parts should be larger than a child's mouth, so that no part of it can be accidentally swallowed. Inspect toys for quality construction and design before buying them. Check to see that small parts on stuffed animals or soft toys are securely fastened. Avoid toys with sharp or pointed edges.

3. Read the instructions for use before purchasing toys. Make sure that they are clear and will be understood by the child.

4. Consider the noise level of the toy. Some toys such as caps and guns can produce sounds at noise levels that can damage hearing.

5. Toys that shoot small objects into the air pose a risk for eye injury. Too often, children place objects not intended for firing into dart guns and, thus, create weapons capable of inflicting harm. You need to always be aware that an older sibling may not pay much attention to these warnings and injure a baby or younger child.

6. Do not select any toys with long strings or cords attached. The cord or string can become wrapped around a small child's neck and cause strangulation. Don't ever hang toys over a crib or playpen using ribbon or rope because an infant easily can become entangled in them.

7. Toy boxes can be dangerous if a child falls inside and suddenly becomes trapped. Only purchase a toy box that has a lid that will stay open in any position. For added safety, look for a toy box that has ventilation holes for fresh air.

8. Be cautious when selecting electric toys. Toys with heating elements can result in burns in younger children, and these toys are not recommended for children younger than 8.

Now, if we could only teach our child to always want toys that are within our budget. This is not a problem with babies and younger children, but it can be with older children and adolescents. The latter have usually seen too many things on TV that they want or they have friends with expensive toys. All we can do is suck it up and always stay within our budget.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.