Okay, we realize you might think an article on safe toys is silly ... aren’t all toys created with children in mind? Well, things get recalled and sharp edges can hurt. As with most safety-related concerns, real knowledge lies in the areas you never thought to question. For example, did you ever think to consider the danger of easy-access battery compartments? How about the danger of balloons – which cause one third of all toy-related deaths in children? There is a lot to know.
Flying is for aircraft, not toys: If you’re a fan of film, you’re no doubt familiar with the endless mockery the character “Ralphie” endures in 1983’s “A Christmas Story.” Each time the poor kid expresses his desire for a BB gun for Christmas, all he ever hears is: “No, you’ll shoot your eye out!” Even Santa chimes in. These folks know what they’re talking about. Toys that propel darts, or those that just simply fly (like helicopters), are risky. Understanding that risk is important because, unfortunately, some eye injuries can remain a life-long obstacle. In 2012 alone, more than 3,000 children were treated in emergency rooms for eye trauma due to air powered guns – a 500% increase from 2010 – be careful when choosing such toys for your little ones.
Ability vs. Age: Generally, the instructions on a toy reference its safety in connection with the child’s age. But any parent knows, not every child behaves the same, or is as responsible as we’d like, simply because of how far away they are from their birth year. So, use your own judgement when purchasing toys for your kids – only you know if they’re ready.
No sharps: No doubt you’re vigilant in keeping your kids away from sharp parts. However, a more thorough way of examining the threat of harm that could come from toys (or any object in the house) is to consider “protruding” parts. Consider a sippy cup for example. Relatively harmless, right? And yet, thousands of children a year are brought to the ER because of a fall that resulted in them smacking some part of their body on the protruding edge of their sippy cup. So, think protrusions. Anything that juts out from an otherwise rounded surface can be suspect based on your child’s ability to interact with the item.
No little parts: Ever wonder how a part is classified as being “small” when it comes to toys? Well, apparently, there’s an entire engineering process behind the decision, and you can even purchase your own “small parts” tester to see if your toys pose a risk to your young ones. Choking is one of the biggest hazards for children, so watch out for small parts!
Long string is a big no-no: String over seven inches is a common cause of choking in children. Anything from balloons to bib cords should be suspect.
Electric and Battery-powered toys: Use your judgement here, but toys that get excessively hot can be problematic, as well as toys with battery compartments kids can get into. You definitely don't want your children swallowing batteries!
Know where to learn about recalls: Keeping up to date about recalls is always a good idea. The place to look is the government’s Consumer Product Safety Council website. It’s all there, from toys to tractors. Pull up a chair, you might be there awhile!
Vintage toys might be better off on the shelf: Toys from prior decades were constructed with different safeguards in place. If you're in the position now to purchase vintage toys, they might be better used for display than use by the youngest of your children.
Tidy up: One of the simplest ways to keep your kids safe (and you for that matter), is to keep their play areas free of toys. If you’ve ever tripped over a toy anywhere in your house, you’re the perfect candidate for this bit of advice. Here’s a great list to start from … keeping a tidy playroom (and house) isn’t just about bins and stickers!
Are they on the most "Watched List"? Toys that have been relegated to the "World Against Toys Causing Harm" list are likely worth avoiding. The organization has been keeping kids safe since 1973. Not a bad track record. Find the list here.
Finally, when you’re buying toys for your kids, be on the lookout for the mark of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). This tag means the toy has met national safety standards – a good place to start when it comes to protecting your entire family.