Buying a present for a child this year? Chances are that at least one item on their list will be a toy. As you begin to shop for the holiday season, be aware that there could be hidden dangers for children in some of these gifts. Look for the age rating, as well as choking hazard warnings on the toy’s package.
Who is Responsible for Toy Safety?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission makes sure all household products, including toys, are safe. They label all toys with the age of the child the toy is intended for. Even if a child has the ability to play with the toy, it still may not be safe, as some parts could be considered a choking hazard (particularly for young children up to age 3, who are more likely than older kids to put things in their mouth). Use package labels to help choose toys that are safe for the child you are buying for. If there are older siblings in the home, take special care and attention to help make sure that younger children do not have access to toys that are meant for older children. More information about toy safety can be found at www.cpsc.gov.
Wondering what kind of toys to lookout for? Below are some of the many toys that the Maryland Poison Center gets calls about.
One popular toy on the market includes squares and triangles with multiple magnets to help children build shapes. Although some magnetic toys have been removed from the market, there are still many that can be dangerous if swallowed. Some retailers even have a best seller’s list for magnet toys only. Yikes! Refrigerator magnets can also be very attractive to children, as they might feature their favorite television character or colorful alphabets. A single magnet or magnetic toy can be a choking hazard to a young child. But if more than one magnet or magnetic toy is swallowed, the child is at risk for even more severe problems. Magnets can attract to each other inside the body. In some serious cases, surgery has been needed to remove magnets and repair the damage to the intestines. Do a scavenger hunt around your house. You may be very surprised at how many magnets you find.
Small button-shaped batteries power many toys and household items. You can even buy bulk packages of replacement batteries that have as many as 30 tiny batteries on a single card. Ever wonder how that cute birthday or holiday card could sing to you? It has a button battery inside! There are also craft projects on the internet aimed at older children that use button batteries as a power source, such as paper circuits. If there are younger children in the house, these crafts need to be supervised and put up and away when finished. Button batteries are small enough for a young child to easily swallow without anyone realizing until much later. If the battery becomes stuck in the throat, it can cause fatal burns. Just watch this video of a button battery burning a hotdog imitating a human esophagus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNZPmct4ZzM.
If you suspect someone has swallowed a button battery, an x-ray is needed right away. Batteries that reach the stomach can pass naturally. Batteries found in the throat will need to be removed right away.
Did you know that some jewelry and arts and crafts products contain lead? Some items have even been recalled for safety concerns. Items that are made in the U.S. must meet certain safety standards. In some cases, items manufactured in other countries do not meet those same standards, but still make it into stores here in the U.S. There is an ACMI seal on arts and crafts products to let people know they are safe. Check for the seal before buying the product. Parents should also monitor lead recall lists regularly, because new items are added all the time. You can find a general recall list at www.cpsc.gov/Recalls. Type “lead” in the search box to find specific lead recalls. Products found on the list should be taken from the child right away. If a child has been exposed to a product on the list, parents should speak with the child’s doctor about the possible exposure to lead.
Just Add Water!
Another toy that has become very popular this year is shapes that start out small, but when soaked in water, grow in size. Some examples include:
- Slippery Spheres™
- Jelly BeadZ®
These water absorbing balls and toys can cause problems if swallowed by a small child. They will absorb moisture from the stomach and intestines, which might make the toy grow inside the body. If they grow large enough, it is possible for these toys to block the intestine. Supervise children when they are playing with this kind of toy.
Chemistry and Science Kits
It is great to get kids involved in science at an early age. And, what could be better than doing experiments right at home? Chemistry and science kits can make excellent gifts, but these products must be used with proper supervision and only for ages recommended on the product. Parents should be present and supervise children to ensure that they follow directions. Call the poison center if any chemicals get in the eyes or mouths. Take similar precautions if conducting home chemistry experiments found on the internet.
If parents and caregivers suspect a child has swallowed a toy or battery, know that expert help is a phone call away at 1-800-222-1222. For more toy safety tips, visit https://www.safekids.org/tip/toy-safety-tips. Happy shopping and happy holidays!