Toys and games are tons of fun for kids and even us, as adults. And while most toys are safe, they still cause a staggering number of trips to the hospital. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 226,100 kids were treated in emergency departments for toy-related injuries in 2018. An estimated 73% happened to children younger than 15, 70% occurred in children 12 or younger and 37% happened to children younger than 5.
“In general, most toys and games on the market today are safe,” said Erika Janes, R.N., coordinator of child safety programs with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness. “Still, toys and games that are not age-appropriate or not used properly can cause serious injury or even death.”
Whether you’re buying your child a puzzle, building blocks, action figures or that new princess gown they’ve been asking for all year, here are five things to think about before clicking the checkout button.
- Read the label: How many of us actually read the warning labels? Well, we should. Warning labels give important information about how to use a toy, appropriate ages and whether there are unforeseen small parts. Labels also will tell you if the toy contains lead, which, believe it or not, is still found in toys.
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- Remove any loose ribbons or strings: These can lead to strangulation or choking.
- Be mindful of other children in the home: While a toy might be appropriate for one child in the household, it might be unsafe for younger siblings. Toys with small parts, for example, are popular with kids over age 5 but can pose a great choking danger for those under 3.
- Beware of button batteries: Each year in the U.S., more than 2,800 kids are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. These batteries not only pose a choking hazard, but if swallowed they can erode the lining of internal organs without any initial signs or symptoms.
- Don’t forget the helmet: If your children have their hearts set on a new bike, skateboard, scooter or other riding equipment, be sure to include a helmet to keep them safe while they’re having fun.
According to Erika, just as important as purchasing safe toys is buying age-appropriate items. And that’s just as much for your benefit as your child’s.
“Younger children can get upset by playing with toys and games that are not suited to their physical or mental capabilities,” she said. “Purchasing age-appropriate toys will spare both you and your child hours of frustration and keep you from throwing away your money.”