Are all toys safe?

Are all toys safe?
Over the years, there have been a number of dangerous toys on the market.  The Gilbert Glass Blowing Kit, sold in the 1910s, encouraged children to heat glass to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit with an alcohol-fueled flame. The Austin Magic Pistol, sold in the 1940s, used explosive chemicals to launch a ball.  Not only could the ball take out someone’s eye, but the pistol itself could blow up when fired, scorching the face of the poor kid firing it with acetylene gas.  Moon Shoes, sold in the 1950s and surprisingly again in the 1990s, caused countless fractured ankles.  Sky Dancers, sold in the 1990s were dolls which would spin rapidly and actually fly into the air.  They caused hundreds of injuries, including many eye injuries leading to blindness.  I could go on and on about all of the unsafe toys that have been sold over the years, but I don’t want to use the entire page!  Most toys that are unsafe are not anywhere near as dangerous as the examples that I have given, but we have to be careful to assure that we are providing safe toys to our children.

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month, initially designated so by Prevent Blindness America, and embraced by the American Public Health Association.  Since we are all considering gifts for the holiday season, I thought this would be a good topic for this week’s Health Tip.  It is important for everyone to consider whether the toy they wish to give will actually suit the age of the child who will receive it, and especially so for infants and children under age three.

Here are a few tips to help you choose safe toys for all ages.

  • Inspect toys before purchasing them.  Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off.  The toy should have no sharp edges or points and should be sturdy enough to withstand impact without breaking, being crushed, or being pulled apart easily.
  • DO NOT give toys with small parts to young children, as they tend to put things in their mouths.  This includes magnets and “button” batteries which can cause serious injury or even death if swallowed.  If the small pieces can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it is NOT appropriate for kids under age three, or a child of any age who still tends to put things in their mouth.
  • When purchasing a toy for a child with special needs, try to consider those special needs in your decision.  Maybe a toy that appeals to different senses, such as sound or texture, might be in order.  Maybe an interactive toy that will allow the child to play with others would be a good choice.  Think about the manipulative limitations or positional limitations of the child as well as their developmental stage when making your choice.
  • Look for labels that assure you that the toys have passed a safety inspection.  The label “ATSM” on the packaging means that the toy has met the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Gifts of sports equipment should always be accompanied by protective gear.  For instance, always give a helmet with a bike or skateboard.
  • Be aware of toys that have been recalled.  These toys may not be on store shelves, but they certainly might be for sale by individuals on many Internet sites.
  • Be aware of the possibility of lead exposure from toys.
  • Do NOT give toys with ropes or cords or heating elements.
  • Do NOT give crayons and markers to young children unless they are labeled as “nontoxic.”
  • If you are considering video games as a gift, please use the age ratings to guide your choice.  Games rated T for Teen are not appropriate for a 9 year old, and games rated M for Mature are not appropriate for a 14 year old.
  • As a parent, you should be diligent about inspecting the toys that your child has received.  Check them for age, skill level, and developmental appropriateness, and check video game ratings before allowing your child to play with them.  You might even consider talking with grandparents ahead of time to avoid having a situation where you have to take away a toy after it has been given.

By following these guidelines, I hope we can all have a safe and happy holiday season.

For more information:

Use this link to Prevent Blindness America for more information about toys and eye safety:  https://www.preventblindness.org/safe-toy-checklist

Use these links to the Consumer Product Safety Commission website for information on toy safety:
https://onsafety.cpsc.gov/blog/2013/12/19/holiday-toy-safety-qa/
https://www.cpsc.gov/Safety-Education/Toy-Recall-Statistics

Use this link for a parent’s guide to video game ratings: https://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/esrb.html

If you have any more questions just Ask Hanna, our health advisors are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor
Image: ©Shutterstock / Zadorozhnyi Viktor

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