How To Avoid Dangerous Children's Toys
You're standing in sea of shelves loaded from floor to ceiling with toys. While the extremely specific desires of your little ones and their delight at opening presents occupies most of your brain, you feel a niggling anxiety. What was that story you saw the other night on the news about children getting poisoned from some arts and crafts item? Which toy did you read about that shattered so easily that little ones were cutting their hands? Though we want to believe people who design and manufacture toys have our children's best interests and safety at heart, toy stores are filled with potentially dangerous items.
You might be wondering, “How dangerous could a toy be?” Think suffocation, choking and poisoning. There's no reason to start hyperventilating, though. You just need a few guidelines for separating the potentially dangerous playthings from the truly safe ones. Once you know what to look for, weeding out the hazardous toys becomes second nature.
Pliable Plastic And Bright Colors
No, you don't have to completely avoid toys that are pliable or come in vibrant hues, but you do need to set your internal radar to pick up on these characteristics as warning signs. With toys like these, it's always a good idea to read the label thoroughly. Look for toys that say non-toxic and phthalate-free. In 2008 Congress approved a nationwide ban on phthalates. Though previously added to make plastics more malleable, they pose health risks, particularly for children. When the toxins are ingested – let's say you're child chews on a toy containing phthalate – the effects could include problems such as hormone malfunction.
Pay attention to toys that have been painted, as well. While the Lead Free Toys Act of 2005 means you probably won't run into many brand-new, lead-based, mass-produced toys on shelves, it can still happen. If you're big on collecting vintage toys, remember those new limits on toxins didn't apply when older toys were made. Keep collectibles on a high shelf. When in doubt, opt for safety and move on to a toy with reassuring labels.
Power Operated Toys
If you're supposed to plug it in or place a battery into the back, think twice. Power-operated toys should stay on the shelf and out of your cart in the following cases:
There Is Not A Secure Battery Case: For extremely young children, the battery cover needs to be secured with screws. For older children who understand that batteries are not toys, snap-shut covers are fine as long as younger children are not in your home. What's the big deal with batteries? When not handled carefully, their acids can result in burns, and smaller sizes easily fit into your tot's mouth.
It Plugs In, But Isn't Stamped "UL Approved": Though you're buying something with a cord for an older child, you still need to be careful. That “UL Approved” label is super important for people of any age; it means that Underwriters Laboratories has tested the product and deemed it safe for use within your home.
All Of Those Tiny Parts
Reaching for a toy with cute little pieces seems like a perfect choice for your tot who is equally adorable. However, tiny pieces present a huge hazard for children not yet in elementary school. Even if the package says the toy is safe for your child, trust your instincts. Keep these two guidelines in mind:
If Any Part Of The Toy Can Fit Into Your Child's Mouth, It's Too Dangerous: KidsHealth.org suggests toys with a minimum diameter of 1 ¼ inches and a length of 2 ¼ inches. Smaller pieces can easily result in choking and suffocation. Major no-no's include marbles, games with small balls, tiny building blocks and toys that easily come apart. And remember, even if you're purchasing marbles for your 12-year-old, if you have a child preschool-age or younger, those marbles become an immediate choking hazard. Always keep your whole family in mind when choosing toys.
Only Purchase Toys That Shoot Or Fling Soft Objects (For Older Children Only): When your kids just have to have that new sling shot, darts or toy gun, ensure that it comes with soft accessories. Avoid any toys that shoot hard or sharp objects. Hard flying objects pose a threat to the eyes and can cause bodily injury. They're also a choking hazard for younger bystanders. Additionally, if you're buying weapon-like toys, they should be vividly colored so they do not look like the real thing.
Toys With Cords, Strings Etc.
Do not purchase toys with cords, string or rope for children in preschool or younger. Such materials can easily become wrapped around a child's neck. Even if you constantly supervise your children and put their toys away after use, keeping these toys out of the house eliminates the possibility of this type of injury.
Extremely Noisy Toys
If you notice that a toy seems particularly loud, it is probably too loud. Though sound- and music-based toys can be entertaining and educational for your children, toys that have been programmed with the volume at full-blast may endanger a child's hearing. For toys that will be used at close range, the legal noise limit is 65 decibels – think walkie talkies. For toys used at an arm's length, the legal limit is 85 decibels. If it seems too loud, skip it.
Choosing toys for your children should be fun. Like most experiences in life, figuring out how to streamline your process – in this case, purchasing safe toys – takes a little effort. Take your time, check out stores that carry safe toys and consult yearly lists of toys to keep abreast of trends and red flags. If you follow these steps, you'll find that you're a toy safety expert sooner than you imagined. Feeling confident about the toys you bring into your house means more carefree play time with your children. It doesn't get any better than that.