Making playtime a safe time starts at the toy store.
During the holiday season, make sure you think safety first when shopping for
Children spend large parts of their day at play. This
time is important for their overall growth and development, so parents need to
be aware of age-appropriate toys.
"As parents, we have to buy our children toys
that are safe for them. There are toys that are inappropriate for certain age
groups, and there are toys that need to be bought with the appropriate safety
gear," says Susan Pollack, M.D., pediatrician with the Kentucky Injury Prevention
and Research Center, and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of
Kentucky College of Medicine.
Choking on small toy parts, rubber balloons, and small
balls continues to be the leading cause of toy-related deaths. From 1990 to 1999,
at least 190 children in the United States died from playing with toys, according
to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In 1999, 16 children in the
United States died playing with toys, nine of those from choking, and an estimated
152,600 people went to emergency rooms for toy-related injuries.
"With children under 3, avoid toys with small
parts that can be swallowed or inhaled," Pollack says. "A practical
guide to use is if a toy will fit in a film canister or a toilet paper roll, it's
Federal regulations ban toys that have small parts
that pose choking hazards for children under 3, regardless of any age labeling
to the contrary.
Rubber balloons also pose a threat for choking. Fifty-six
children have choked to death on parts of rubber balloons since 1990. For parents
who want to buy balloons, Pollack says they need to be sure to purchase those
made of Mylar, which may be more expensive but do not pop and produce rubber parts
that can be choking hazards.
In addition to choking hazards, parents need to be
aware of riding toys for older children. When buying a bike, skateboard, inline
skates, or scooter, buy the related safety equipment too. Scooters should not
be used by children under 8, should not be ridden at night, and should be ridden
only on sidewalks with smooth surfaces.
"Be sure to enforce the helmet rule from the first
time they use their new toy so they will always use their helmet," Pollack
"Kids need to be kids and run around outside and
just play," Pollack adds. "But we as parents need to make sure they
are supervised and they wear the proper safety equipment to make playtime a safe
Toy buying checklist
Susan Pollack, M.D., pediatrician with the Kentucky
Injury Prevention and Research Center, and assistant professor of pediatrics
at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, offers the following safety
tips when buying toys:
- Follow the recommended age labeling as a guide and look for safety messages
- Consider that toys intended for older children could be dangerous in the
hands of a younger child, and teach the older child to keep their toys out
of the reach of their younger siblings.
- Check for objects that can be pulled off or bitten off of stuffed animals.
These objects could also be a choking hazard.
- Don't buy young children an ATV or a motorized vehicle. Find toys without
batteries or motors that your children can pedal or run on their own.
- Make sure fast-food restaurant toys are safe before giving them to your
- After buying safe toys, parents need to supervise their children while they
play to avoid injury. Simply join your children during playtime.