There were approximately 192,000 toy-related injuries in 2012 to children under 15, according to a report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said an article from childrensafetynetwork.org.
Among the most common injuries are strangulation, ingestion and sharp-force trauma, which can occur with many common toys, said RN pediatric case manager for Ministry St. Mary’s, Blaine Conley.
“It’s definitely decreased with awareness, but they do see a lot of ER visits,” Conley said. “Then if it’s severe, like a battery or something, they do have to get that call right away… because that could be deadly hazardous.”
Dr. Eunice Corujo-Incha, Ministry’s senior pediatric doctor, recommended staying away from things like bows and ribbons, even when wrapping presents.
“Cords and ribbons and stuff like that can always be a strangulation hazard,” Conley said. “For younger kids, instead of having the bows and ribbons on presents, just do the wrapping paper, and try not to put all the decorative stuff on it, because the kids just want to open the presents anyway.”
Anything that’s longer than 12 inches is considered a major choking hazard, and should not be left around children unsupervised, according to Dr. Carujo.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has an extensive list of tips and recommendations when it comes to child safety around the holidays—everything from flame-resistant artificial trees and making sure real trees are green and fresh to avoid fire hazards—that can be found on their website at www.aap.org.
Toy maintanence is another big piece that is often overlooked. Toys that were bought with safety in mind can turn into hazards if they become chipped or pieces break off. Conley recommends throwing away any toys that have missing parts or appear to be broken in any way.
“Anything that has a magnet, or batteries… because they can come apart, and they can be swallowed,” Conley said. “In those singing greeting cards, they can rip them out and there are little batteries in there. So kids love getting the music thing, but be under supervision that they don’t get that little battery that plays the music cards. You might not think of it because it’s not a toy.”
The general rule for younger kids, especially three and under, is no toys with small, removable parts.
There are a near infinite number of things for parents to watch out for, like removing tags from gifts before giving them or looking for toy recalls after purchase, that are easy to overlook. One way to make it easier is simply to limit the number of toys a child receives.
“One or two toys—kids don’t need a million toys for Christmas—and just one or two toys can be more memorable to a child, and teach more lessons than giving a thousand toys,” Conley said.
There are some things Conley says are just absolute an absolute NO for young kids.
“Balloons—even inflated or broken, they can choke on them and suffocate, and even kids will blow up balloons and they suck it back in and it gets caught in their windpipe,” Conley said.
Fortunately, there are federal regulations for toys sold in the U.S. They may not disallow the sale of hazardous toys, but most things that could be a threat to child safety are required to have an age recommendation. Those designations are guided by federal regulation and are usually good indicators of whether or not a toy is right for your child.
“Even looking for safety labels like ‘flam’ or ‘flame’ or flame-resistant, and washable materials or cleaning, that can be cleaned to decrease germs,” Conley said.
Conley also said that some toys can still have lead, which is obviously a hazard, and that you should be careful about where the toys you are buying came from.
More information on ensuring a safe holiday for your kids can be found at www.aap.org, www.childrensafetynetwork.org, www.cpsc.gov, or at Ministry St. Mary’s Hospital.
“Every holiday season in our waiting room that we try to put out the information about safe holidays, and then the doctors like to hit on it sometimes too,” Conley said.
Staying informed is often the best way to keep children safe, and often vigilance is the price of avoiding a disastrous holiday experience.