Safety Before You Open the BoxToy safety starts when you're shopping. Make sure you look at the recommended ages on the toy. Sometimes these are developmental recommendations, but often, particularly if the age excludes the under-three crowd, they also represent a safety concern. If it says "Ages 3 and up," chances are it presents a choking hazard to little ones.
Inspect toys carefully, particularly if you are shopping at "discount" stores with manufacturers you don't know and trust. Look for toys with securely attached parts that look to be sturdy and have no sharp edges. Even brands you know and trust can have poorly made products that slip through, so give everything a careful check.
Lead paint is a very real danger, especially with toys made outside of the country where this is not regulated. Shop with reputable retailers and brands you trust, and purchase new toys instead of used ones, to avoid this problem.
If you're shopping for a toddler or baby, you'll need to consider a few additional safety issues. First, make sure the toys don't have any long strings that could wrap around the child's neck. Pull strings and other cords or straps should not be any longer than 12 inches. Also, avoid toys that have sharp points and rough edges for this age group, and watch for eyes and noses on plush toys that could be chewed off.
Know Common Choking HazardsEveryone knows to cut up their children's hot dogs, or if they don't the little wiener dog hot dog cutters in the store will tell them, but believe it or not hot dogs are the least of your worries when it comes to choking hazards. Your toy box is also a dangerous culprit, especially if you have young babies and older children in the same home.
Some choking hazards are obvious, but others are less so. As you go through the toy room to eliminate hazards, know what you're looking for. The American Academy of Pediatricians indicates that anything that a child can fit in his mouth is a hazard, and common household items include:
- Marbles and balls
- Lids to pens or markers
- Balloons (which are small when deflated)
- Small toy parts
Store Toys SafelyAnother way that toys can be dangerous is if they are not stored properly. Most parents struggle with the fact that their children own an overwhelming amount of toys. When you start looking for places to store them, the logical answer may seem to be shelves stacked to the ceiling. Yet this creates a hazard, because small children can try to climb these shelves, which can then topple on them, leading to severe injury or even death.
Instead, choose sturdy, low shelves that children can reach without climbing. Assume that kids will try to climb even if the shelves are low, so opt for shelves that are heavy enough not to topple or light enough not to injure a child if they do. Add even more safety by attaching them to the wall using wall brackets.
If you're going to store toys in bins, make sure they have non-locking lids and vent holes. You'll never know when your child is going to decide to hide in that bin, and you don't want a toddler or preschooler to get stuck inside and suffocate.
If you have a mix of ages in your home, chances are your older kids will have toys that aren't safe for their younger siblings. To avoid a problem, store these on a higher shelf, preferably in a closet or cabinet where they aren't enticing to the younger ones. Keep tabs on what your kids get out to play with, and ensure that they put every piece away when they are done. If you have the space, have a dedicated play area for these small toys, such as Legos, that is closed off for the younger children. Your older children should be mature enough to understand the dangers these small toys pose, so enlist their help in keeping things picked up.
Remember, toys should be fun, not dangerous. If you follow these tips and supervise your children's play well, you can ensure that they are able to enjoy playing without worry for many years to come.
Nicole Harms is a concerned mother, freelance writer and contributor to the Ross Feller Casey, LLP blog.