Toy Safety

We’re just a few weeks away from Christmas, and while some parents have already knocked out their shopping, many more are still trying to figure out what to get for their children. Whether you’ve almost finished finding your gifts, or you have yet to start, you should consider toy safety when shopping for the holidays.

You wouldn’t suspect anything sinister about the toys that you just wrapped, or expect there to be any danger lurking beneath the Christmas tree at all for that matter; however, there are reports regarding toy-related injuries every year.

Toy safety is a real problem. In 2013, there were nine reports of toy-related deaths in children under twelve years old, seven of which were caused by asphyxiation. There were also 256,700 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospitals. Most of these injuries were lacerations, contusions, or abrasions. While there are certainly some hazardous toys out there, most of these accidents come from misuse of a toy, lack of supervision, or parents ignoring the age recommendations.

Many toys will display the appropriate age range on the packaging. For example, a jigsaw puzzle might have a minimum age of 7. This isn’t just to suggest that younger children might not find the puzzle interesting or engaging, but also that those small puzzle pieces could present a choking hazard for younger children.

Toys that are sharp, pointy, or small enough to swallow are certainly dangerous, and it’s never a good idea to ignore toy safety recommendations, but there are other things to consider when it comes to toy safety. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing toys for your children.

  • Small toys can present a choking hazard, and a toddler won’t necessarily recognize the difference between food and toy.
  • 43% of the toy-related injuries in 2013 were either cuts or abrasions. Be mindful of toys with sharp edges or corners.
  • Electronic toys with motors or moving parts, such as remote control cars, can pinch fingers or catch hair.
  • It’s not always apparent that a toy might be dangerous. Some toys can be made with toxic chemicals.

Lead paint in toys was big concern for a while, and BPA content is commonly found in many everyday household items, but the number of chemicals being used in children’s toys is being reduced, or at the very least more closely regulated. It’s still something to think about when you find a wonderful vintage toy in an antique store or a thrift shop, though.

Different countries can have different standards and regulations for toys. Many of the toys sold in the United States are required to meet national safety standards, but this isn’t true for all toys. In 2008, the U.S. passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. This act increased the amount of testing and documentation required, and set new standards for substance levels for a number of items including toys. Thanks to this act, U.S. toy-making standards are among the highest in the world.

Again, it’s not always what the toys are made of. Most toy safety issues come from improper use or a lack of supervision. You don’t have to bar your doors, burn all your children’s toys, or shoo Santa away from your chimney. Just be mindful about where toys are made, how they are made, and how they are intended to be used, and keep an eye on young children when they’re playing with toys.