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Safe Toys & Gifts Month: Tips for Parents, Caregivers

Here are some safe toy guidelines when shopping for your children or when inspecting their gifts.

By Heather Duge

With Christmas around the corner, parents are scrambling to find the perfect gifts for their kids. December is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, and many of the toys sold in stores and online pose significant dangers to kids of all ages including water beads recently highlighted in the news. Once swallowed, the beads may swell inside the intestine creating a potentially life-threatening blockage. Safe Toys and Gifts

“Unfortunately the water beads are not always visible on an X-ray, and typically we have to monitor closely to see if any concerning symptoms begin to appear such as vomiting, abdominal pain or distension,” said Bianka Soria-Olmos, D.O., pediatrician and Medical Advisor for Digital Health at Cook Children’s.

Last year, more than 200,000 toy-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments with 74% of those sustained by children 14 years old or younger. Forty-six percent of the injuries were to the head and face – the most commonly affected areas of the body. 

Sharon Evans, trauma injury prevention coordinator at Cook Children’s, says that looking at the recommended age displayed on the toy packaging is often overlooked and more important than people realize.

“The age is set on the research of what is appropriate for mental and physical development and safety,” Evans said. “It doesn’t mean your child is not smart or mature.”

Evans says one of the gifts she would definitely say no to are the Airsoft or Nerf guns – and anything that shoots objects – because the hospital sees a lot of eye injuries from those.

Use these safe toy guidelines when shopping for your children:

  • Avoid buying toys with sharp points or other dangerous edges.
  • Do not buy toys with small magnets or button batteries which can cause serious injury or death if ingested.
  • Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break easily.
  • Look for “ASTM” on the label. This means the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.
  • Always include protective gear with sports equipment.
  • Do not buy toys with long strings or cords as these can become wrapped around a child’s neck.
  • Do not give toys with small parts to young children. If the object fits inside a toilet paper roll or if pieces from the toy could break off and fit into the roll, it is not appropriate for kids younger than 3.
  • Always dispose of uninflated or broken balloons immediately. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more children have suffocated from them than any other type of toy.
  • Do not buy crayons or markers unless they are labeled nontoxic.