Millions of children will gleefully open holiday packages containing toys this month.
But while children have their hearts firmly fixed on having fun, parents likely are more concerned that the toys they purchase remain safe. Statistics suggest such fears are justified.
Last year, U.S. hospital emergency departments treated more than more than 250,000 toy-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Among the injuries:
- 42 percent were classified as lacerations, contusions or abrasions. Fractures made up 11 percent of injuries, and 10 percent were sprains or strains.
- 44 percent involved the head and face area, the most commonly affected area of the body. Another 23 percent of injuries affected the arm, and 18 percent affected the leg.
In addition, 11 deaths were associated with accidents related to toys during 2014.
Following are five types of toys that can be potentially dangerous when given to young children.
Riding toys – including bikes, scooters, skateboards and skates – were responsible for 30 percent of toy-related injuries treated in emergency departments during 2014, the CPSC says. That was first among all categories of toys.
In fact, riding toys were involved in seven of the 11 fatal toy-related accidents during 2014.
Supervision is the key to keeping kids safe, says Nikki Fleming, CPSC spokesperson.
“Never allow children to ride in streets or roadways,” she says.
Always make sure children wear the right safety gear, including helmets, and knee, elbow and wrist guards.
Small balls and toys containing small parts
Fleming says you should avoid buying small toys for young children, especilly kids under the age of 3.
“Young children are curious and tend to place things in their mouths,” she says. Such behaviors can lead to choking or asphyxiation.
Parents can reduce the risk of future injury by paying close attention to toy packaging when shopping.
“Use the age labeling required on toy packaging as a guide,” she says.
Balloons can be dangerous, especially before they are inflated or after they have popped. Children can choke or suffocate on balloons in such states, and can also be strangled by balloon strings.
The CPSC recommends keeping children younger than 8 away from deflated balloons.
Magnets can easily be swallowed, especially the small pieces that often come with high-powered magnet sets. Such sets should not be given to children under age 14, the CPSC says.
“Building and play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children,” Fleming says.
- Toys with batteries that require recharging
These toys may be safe, but children may be tempted to charge the batteries themselves. This can create the risk of a thermal burn, especially if the charger lacks a mechanism to prevent overcharging.
Other tips for keeping holiday toys safe
In fiscal 2015, there have been just 25 toy recalls, Fleming says. The CPSC attributes the decline in recalls to safety standards that have been established in recent years.
Still, parents must remain on their guard when shopping for toys. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a list of suggestions for buying safe toys. They include:
- Read labels. Warning labels tell you the potential dangers of a toy. Also, pay close attention to the age-range recommendation assigned to each toy.
- Choose larger toys. Toys that are larger and that have bigger parts pose less of a choking hazard.
- Avoid toys that shoot things into the air. These can cause both eye injuries and choking hazards.
- Skip loud toys. Noisy toys can damage hearing.
- Look for labels that say “nontoxic” or “UL approved.” Nontoxic toys reduce the risk of poisoning, while toys with the “UL” seal have been tested for electrical safety
- Do not buy chemistry sets for young children. Improperly used, these sets can be used to cause fires and explosions. They also may contain dangerous chemicals, and are not recommended for children younger than 12.
- Use caution when buying crib toys. Toys that hang in the crib and that have strings and wires can lead to strangulation.