Most parents will look around their homes and easily point out the obvious things that could be dangerous to their child; electrical outlets, cleaners, medicine cabinets, etc. Most, however, do not realize that the things that could actually be the most dangerous are sitting right on the shelves of their child’s bedroom.
When shopping for toys for your child, the rule of thumb is to think like a child. Children look at things much differently than adults do so it’s important to see things from their perspective and decide where the dangers lie. The following tips will help you as you shop for toys for your little one.
Check it Out
If there is a toy that you’ve really wanted to get your child, do an online search to see what’s being said about it. Check first to make sure that there haven’t been any recalls on it and then check reviews to see what other parents have to say. While advertisements make the toy look phenomenal, reviews from actual parents who have given it to their children are much more forthcoming and trustworthy.
Also pay attention to the ages that the toy is recommended for. A toy meant for five and six year olds will likely have small parts and not be suitable for a one year old. The recommendations are a general guideline to follow; you decide from there whether it’s appropriate for your child.
Always follow the safety manufacturer’s instructions for the toy. At times they might seem silly and a bit overzealous, but they are there for a reason and need to be taken seriously. Make sure that your child (when old enough) understands how the toy is to be handled as well.
Before you actually buy the toy, take a look at it yourself. Read the packaging and check the durability of the toy. You can really never have too much information about something that you are going to place right in to your child’s tiny hands.
Look for Hazards
Every toy must be completely hazard-free or have any potential hazards listed clearly on the packaging. Again, avoiding major hazards can often be avoided by following the guidelines for age-appropriateness.
Some of the major hazards that toys can have include:
Choking Hazards: Sadly, choking caused by toys is the leading cause of toy-related deaths and injuries to date. Check product labels for choking warnings and look it over yourself. How durable is it? Are there parts that could be broken off and swallowed? Some of the major toys that cause choking are balloons, toys with small parts, toys that break apart easily, and small bouncy balls. If it can fit into your child’s mouth, it can be choked on. Even if you are confident about a toy, watch your child closely as he plays to see if there is anything he discovers that you may have overlooked.
Toxicity Hazards: Chemicals such as phthalates which are used to soften PVC before being made into toys have been linked to several health issues in children. While toys are screened for chemicals before being placed on shelves, there are still many that are being found to be toxic. Look for labels that read, “phthalate free,” and “BPA free.” Also be wary about ordering toys from outside the country since they are not required to abide by the same safety guidelines as the US.
Strangulation Hazard: Any toy that has strings or cords hanging from it poses a major strangulation hazard. Parents often do not see the threat, but creative children find ways to harm themselves with the simplest of toys. Yo-yo’s are a major concern and have been linked to hundreds of injuries. A child’s neck is so small that just about anything can become wrapped around it and cut off their airway.
Noise Hazard: Some toys created specifically to entertain children with noise and music are far too loud and are damaging children’s sense of hearing. Nearly 15% of children in the US between ages six and seventeen suffer from hearing loss, and many believe that loud toys are aggravating it. Toys are required to be no louder than 90 decibels, but you can use your own ears as a guide. Solving this one is simple enough; if it seems loud to you it’s too loud for your child.
Other Hazards: Other things to watch out for include toys with sharp parts that could harm your child as well as toys that are not well built and fall apart easily. Pay special attention to electronic toys and inspect them before giving them to your child to make sure that the batteries are new and that no wires or other potential hazards are exposed. Tighten screws extra tight and watch your children as they play with them. Riding toys such as bikes and scooters also need extra attention; inspect them to make sure that they will not topple with your child on them or pose any other danger.