Sunday, August 7, 2011

Safe Toys Basics

Choosing safe toys and making sure the toys your kids play with are age appropriate and haven't been recalled, you can help to keep them safe by taking special precautions with the following potentially dangerous toys and toys that include hazardous parts, including:

  • Magnetic Toys - toys with small magnets, such as the Polly Pocket dolls and accessories with magnets and Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets, should be avoided by children. Unfortunately, if more than one magnet is swallowed, the magnets can become attracted to each other and can cause a blockage.
  • Small Parts - toys with small parts are a choking hazard for children under age 3.
  • Ride-on Toys - injuries from riding toys lead to many toy related injuries, so make sure children wear all appropriate safety gear, including helmets and pads, when playing with ride-on toys.
  • Projectile Toys - younger children improperly playing with projectile toys, including air rockets and darts, can get serious injuries, including eye injuries
  • Chargers and Adapters - many children toys now include batteries, chargers, and adapters, and to avoid thermal burns, it is important that adults supervise the use of all chargers and adapters.
  • Loud Toys - several toys tested by the Public Interest Research Group this year exceeded 100 decibels, which can cause hearing loss
  • Children's Jewelry - there were many recalls of children's jewelry in recent years because they contained high levels of lead, which can cause lead poisoning

Age Appropriate Toys
Avoiding toys that aren't age appropriate is often harder than you would think, especially if your younger child has older siblings. While the latest Lego Star Wars set might be perfectly appropriate for your 8 year old, the small pieces would clearly be a choking hazard for your 2 year old. So what do you do?

Since it can be hard to always trust your kids to put their toys away, the safest thing to do is have a 'safe zone' where such toys are off limits and where you know that your younger children can play safely. This can be a childproofed room or gated off area of a larger room. Alternatives can be to have your older kids play with their toys in rooms that are off limits to younger kids or simply be diligent about making sure they pick their toys up.

Kids can also sometimes get age inappropriate toys as gifts, when friends or family members don't respect the age restrictions on labels. Having a policy that you only let your kids play with age appropriate toys and either returning the toy or keeping it until your child grows into it, can help to make sure he doesn't get injured by it.

Toy Safety
To keep your kids safe while playing with their toys, it is also important to:

  • quickly take recalled toys away from your children;
  • regularly inspect toys, and then either fix or throw away broken toys, especially if they have chipping paint;
  • supervise your younger children while they are playing;
  • discourage children from putting toys in their mouth;
  • double check the warning labels on toys you buy online, see they are not required to include choke hazard warnings on their toys;
  • review the Trouble in Toyland report about hidden toy hazards; and
  • avoid home trampolines, ATVs, and nonpowder guns, including BB guns, which the American Academy of Pediatrics says are 'weapons and should never be characterized as toys.'

And since you never know which toy will be recalled next, do your own inspection before you let your kids play with new toys. Although it isn't really practical to do a home lead test on all of your child's toys, you can check for small parts that you can easily pull off and other design flaws.

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