To make sure a toy is appropriate for your young child, check the label. In general, most toys on the market today are safe. But, injuries still occur in spite of tough government regulations and toy makers' efforts to test products. The first step in preventing toy-related injuries is to know what to look for.
Toy makers follow the guidelines established by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in determining the age grading of a toy. The CPSC now requires labeling on toys that are designed for children between the ages of 3 and 6, which can pose a choking hazard for children under age 3. The labels must specifically state that the toy is unsafe for children under age 3 and the reason for the warning.
The age recommendation on a toy reflects the safety of a toy based on four categories. These include:
The physical ability of the child to play with the toy.
The mental ability of a child to know how to use the toy.
The play needs and interests present at various levels of a child's development.
The safety aspects of a particular toy.
Families with children of various ages should remember that toys for older children could pose a hazard to younger children. To prevent toy-related injuries or death, take the following safety steps:
Avoid letting your toddler (ages 3 and under) play with small toys and parts. Children in this age group still "mouth" objects, which can cause them to choke on small objects. A small parts tester can help determine if an object is a choking hazard.
Make sure that the toy is sturdy and that no small parts (such as eyes, noses, buttons, or other parts) can break off the toy.
Do not allow your child to play with latex balloons.
Check under your furniture and between seat cushions for choking hazards, such as coins, marbles, watch batteries, buttons, or pen and marker caps.
Avoid letting your child play on bean bag chairs that contain small foam pellets--if the bean bag chair rips, your child can inhale and choke on the pellets.
An arrow, dart, or pellet can be a choking hazard when shot into a child's mouth.
Riding toys should be kept away from stairs, traffic, and bodies of water.
Supervise your child while playing on a riding toy and make sure he or she fits properly on the toy.
Remember to discard any plastic wrapping the toy came in--plastic wrapping can suffocate a small child.
Infants should not have access to string longer than seven inches--especially from hanging objects in cribs and playpens--as they can strangle an infant.
Strangling may occur if a string, rope, or cord from a toy gets tangled around a child's neck. Long objects can be deadly if your child falls or gets tangled up in them while in a crib.
Loose or long parts of clothing, such as dangling hood cords, could also strangle your child when tangled or hooked on playground equipment.
Eye injuries often result from toys that shoot plastic objects or other flying pieces.
Playing with electric plug-in toys or hobby kits may result in serious injuries. Burns and shocks may result from frayed cords, misuse, or prolonged use.
Chemistry sets and other hobby kits may contain toxic substances or materials that can catch fire and cause serious skin and eye injuries, and also can cause explosions or poisoning.
Injuries also can result from snapping or machine-gun noises made by some toys--noise levels that are higher than 100 decibels can damage your child's hearing. Caps are dangerous if used indoors or closer than 12 inches from your child's ear.
Toy chests and other storage containers can cause serious childhood injuries, which can pinch, bruise, or break tiny fingers and hands when a lid closes suddenly. Your child also can suffocate if trapped inside a toy chest.
In addition, to protect your child from injury, be sure to always supervise him or her when playing with toys.