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Checking It Twice

Toy Safety Tips

The holidays are upon us, which makes it prime time for toy buying. In fact, more than half of the three billion toys and games sold in the United States each year are purchased at Christmastime.

Fortunately, toy makers are more diligent about safety than ever before, which means there are fewer out-and-out dangerous toys on the shelves. Still, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 217,000 children are treated in hospital emergency departments nationwide each year for toy-related injuries; nearly half of these children are younger than 5.

“Choking is the most common cause of toy-related death,” said Rebecca Kynes, a children’s advocate at St. Joseph’s. “Falls from riding toys, including unpowered scooters and tricycles, are associated with more injuries than any other toy group.”

Appropriate selection and proper use of toys, combined with parental supervision, can greatly reduce the incidence and severity of toy-related injuries, Kynes says.

When selecting toys, be sure to:

  • Choose toys suitable to the child’s age, interest and skill level. “Age labels are for safety reasons and not intended as developmental ratings,” Kynes says. “If a package indicates the toy isn’t suitable for children younger than 3, it doesn’t mean that your 2-year-old won’t be able to figure out how to play with the toy, rather that the toy has small parts or sharp pieces that could injure a younger child.”
  • Don’t buy toys with small magnetic pieces for any child younger than 6 or 10 if they have younger siblings who could easily access the pieces.
  • Look for well-made toys.
  • Avoid toys painted with lead paint. Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning, causing serious damage to a child’s brain, kidneys and nervous system.
  • Avoid electrical toys with heating elements (batteries, electrical plugs) for children younger than 8. These toys are a potential burn hazard.
  • Avoid toys with strings, straps or cords longer than 7 inches, which can wrap around a child’s neck and accidentally strangle her.
  • Avoid toy darts and other projectiles. Propelled toys can cause cuts or serious eye injuries.

Bicycles, skates, scooters and skateboards are popular gifts for the holidays, but if children lack the proper protective gear or skills, injury and death can occur. To keep kids safe whenever they “wheel” around, be sure to:

  • Buy a helmet, too. Helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury as much as 88 percent.
  • Buy stickers or bike reflectors and use them on the front, sides and back of the bike to increase the child’s visibility to drivers.
  • Buy a bike horn or a bell as a stocking stuffer. This tool is essential for warning motorists and pedestrians of a bicyclist’s approach.
  • Don’t forget to buy elbow and knee pads as well as wrist guards for skates and skateboards.

Kids sometimes are reluctant to wear protective gear, insisting that they are good riders or complain that none of their friends wear them. But Kynes urges parents to resist that temptation, noting that requiring children to wear a helmet every time, everywhere they go, is the best thing you can do to protect them.

Kynes adds that riding toys should not be used near stairs, traffic or swimming pools. Parents also can use the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper to identify small toy parts that are potential choking hazards. “Small children should not play with anything that can fit into one of these cylinders,” Kynes warns.

For more information on toy safety this holiday season, or anytime of the year, visit




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