It’s hard to miss the evidence of the holiday shopping season – store signs, television commercials and email messages vie for our attention to guide us to the “must have” gifts this year. Less obvious is information that can help adults choose gifts that are both appropriate and safe for the children on their gift list. Warning labels on toys and product recall websites can help shoppers make informed decisions about the gifts they purchase.
Unfortunately, the time children spend at play is also a time they can get hurt. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports more than 262,000 toy-related injuries are treated in emergency rooms (ER) each year. To avoid these trips to the ER and make sure children’s toys are safe, parents should carefully read warning labels, stay up to date on toy-recall lists and take notice of where toys are made.
Safety Tips For Safe Gift Giving
The following safety tips can also help you be sure that you are choosing and giving safe gifts this holiday season.
- Always supervise children with their new toys. Children should be actively supervised with their new toys, especially if the toy has small parts, batteries, power cords, or other potentially dangerous pieces. Also be sure to read all warning labels and instructions ahead of time so that you can effectively supervise your child.
- Don’t forget safety gear. If your child is receiving a bike, skateboard, scooter, roller blades, or other similar toy, be sure to include a safety helmet with the gift. Importantly, the safety helmet should fit your child properly, and should be replaced at least every five years.
- Avoid purchasing second hand toys. Proceed with caution if your child will receive hand-me-down toys, or if you plan to purchase toys second hand. Second hand toys may be broken, missing parts, or may have been recalled for safety reasons. To find out if a toy has been recalled, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission website at http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls/.
- Make sure toys are age appropriate. Most toys have age recommendations for a reason. When giving your child a new toy, be sure to consult the age recommendations, and also consider your individual child’s skill level. And while it seems obvious not to give a child a toy that is too advanced, it is similarly important not to give older children toys that are specifically for younger children. Older children may get bored and may break these toys or create hazards by playing with them incorrectly.
These safety tips can help keep children safe with their new toys this holiday season. However, there are still a number of other toy safety hazards to consider.
Lead in Children’s Toys
Lead poisoning is another common concern for parents shopping for toys. Many toys made in Pacific regions of the world—especially China—are known for containing dangerous levels of lead. For example, brightly painted toys from these parts of the world may use dangerous levels of lead paint. Pottery and jewelry can also contain dangerous levels of lead. Even if a product claims that it is “lead free,” it may be best to avoid these products if they were made outside the U.S. or Europe.
Other Hazardous Toys
Toys made using lead are not the only toys of which parents should beware. Below is a list of other kinds of toys and the potential dangers they pose.
- Magnets. Magnets can be dangerous toys, especially if swallowed. Swallowed magnets can cause severe internal damage, because they are attracted to each other and can pull each other through the human body.
- Toys with small parts. Toys with small parts can be a choking hazard for small children. A safe rule of thumb is any toy that can fit inside a cardboard paper-towel roll is likely too small for children under the age of three.
- Toys with string-parts. Toys that have strings can be a strangulation hazard.
- Craft supplies. Craft supplies can also be dangerous to children if ingested. Make sure that all craft supplies gifts are specifically labeled “nontoxic.”
As a parent, it is important to pay attention to recalls of children’s toys to make sure any toys given to your children are safe. Lead is a very real hazard, and you should avoid purchasing toys from parts of the world where manufacturers using lead materials is prevalent. And finally, always make sure children are given appropriate toys, play with toys correctly, and are always supervised.
To stay up to date on the latest recalls of children’s toys, or to sign up for email updates about new recalls, visit http://www.safekids.org/product-recalls.
About the Author: Courtney Allen Van Winkle is a partner and personal injury attorney in Richmond with Allen & Allen. She has been ranked in Virginia Super Lawyers, which include only 5% of attorneys in Virginia. With a career spanning more than 20 years, Courtney has handled personal injury cases involving catastrophic injury, brain injury and wrongful death in Richmond, VA and across the state.
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