Children learn through play and toys have an important role in a child’s learning and development. As it is impossible to watch your child every second of the day, there are some quick and easy things you can do to ensure their toys are safe:
- Read the labeling on new toys. ‘Not suitable for children aged under 3’ means that there are small parts that are choke hazards; it is not an indication of skill level or intelligence.
- Check toys regularly for loose parts which may be choking dangers. A good tool which can be printed is the choke test tool which can be found at Product Safety Australia. For more information see our article on how to save a choking baby.
- Buy good quality toys that won’t easily break. Broken parts could pose a choke hazard.
- When you do purchase a new toy, introduce it to your child in your presence. This way you can make sure they are playing with it safely and not running around with it in their mouths (dental accident) or using their new glitter wand as a “super hero sword” to hit their younger brother.
- Ensure that ride-on toys are appropriate and are stable.
- Start early with bike and scooter helmets and make them a good safety habit for your child. For more information on fitting a bike helmet see here. Scooters, bikes, tricycles, roller blades and skate boards all require a bike helmet to protect your child in an accident.
- Buy washable, non-breakable toys for babies.
- Open a new toy with your child, take out any pieces that may be a choke hazard to their younger siblings. We have a container called “Toy Choke Hazards” in the top of our garage cupboard, much to our daughter’s despair most of her barbie accessories are stored here away from her younger brother.
- Toy chests and boxes should have a removable lid. Anything big enough to crawl inside must have ventilation holes, including tents. Helmets and masks must also have ventilation holes.
- Check that there are no gaps or holes which could trap a child’s fingers or head.
- For toys with batteries make sure that the batteries are screwed in firmly so that they cannot be removed by a child. Button battery injuries are common and can be deadly. Store your batteries the way you store your poisons, in a lockable cupboard up and away from children.
- Be wary of toys that make loud noises as they can be harmful to a babies delicate ears.
- Check for sharp edges or rough surfaces as they can cause cuts and splinters.
- Be careful of toys without any safety marks or registration, or without a recommended age range.
- Lead paint is common on cheaper toys (and is still legal in many countries) – be wary that if children swallow lead paint it may be harmful.
- Check magnetic toys for loose and separable magnets. If magnets are swallowed they may cause blockage of the digestive system resulting in serious injury. In particular any toys like Buckyballs should NOT be in the same house as children.
- Projectile toys, such as bows and arrows, can lead to injury if fired at or near others. Always supervise children and warn them not to fire at or near a person’s face.
- Remember that rings, inflatable arm bands, kick boards and small inflatable toys are not safety devices. Children in the water must be supervised at all times to prevent drowning. 20 seconds is all it takes for a child to drown.
- If you have doubts about a toys safety, you can make sure it hasn’t been recalled by checking these links for Australian toys, or American toys. We could not find a toy recall database in Asia.
Using Toys Safely
- Always read the instructions carefully, and dispose of packaging immediately. Plastic wrapping (and plastic bags) can suffocate a child.
- Arrange safe places to play. Children and adults falling over scattered toys is a common form of injury associated with toys. Keep toys off stairs and walkways. Children should not play near drive ways or where cars are parked. Make sure your child is safely inside the house before you reverse or enter the driveway of your home.
- Keep toys made for older children away from younger children. Toys that are safe for one age group may be dangerous for another. Examples of this would be Lego, small dolls accessories such as barbie shoes, marbles, broken crayons and small figurines that come may come in sets.
- Store toys down low so children can reach them easily without climbing. Toy containers that are light, with rounded edges and loose fitting lids are best. Avoid heavy hinges lids that can crush fingers, and large air-tight containers.
- Check the condition of toys as you tidy up. Repair or throw out any that are no longer safe
Causes of Injury Due to Toys
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine in the US riding toys, such as tricycles and non-powered scooters, are the leading cause of toy-related injuries, with half of all toy-related injuries occurring to the head and face area. Other causes on injury include:
- Choking, inhaling or swallowing small objects. Children under age three are at greater risk for choking on toys than older children, due to their tendency to put everything in their mouths. In addition, the upper airways of children under age three are smaller than those of older children
- Crushing fingers and other parts of the body.
- Cuts from metal blades or sharp plastics.
- Damage to eyes from sharp objects, party poppers or fire works.
- Strangulation from loose cords or wire loops, this includes cords from clothing. Be wary of curtain curds and loop them up and away from children’s little hands.
For a bit of history of where toy safety standards came from see this very unscientific list from io9 – 13 of the most dangerous toys ever made!
Have fun with your new toys!
Maree has over five years of experience in Occupational Health and Safety and in the development of safety standards, training workshops and improvement initiatives. She is passionate about health, safety and education. Maree, a mother of two children, has a Advanced Diploma in OHS and will be graduating soon with a B.Sc. (HSE) from Australia.