Keep Toy Safety in mind this Holiday Season
Toys are important in helping children learn and develop, but can also cause injuries, some of which can be fatal.
Injuries from toys are often caused by choking, inhaling or swallowing small objects, but injuries can also include crushing fingers and other parts of the body, cuts from metal blades or sharp plastics, damage to eyes from sharp objects, strangulation from loose cords or wire loops, burning from parts that get hot, falling and even poisoning.
With the holiday season upon us and scores of people hitting the shops for Christmas shopping, and most often toys for the little ones, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital urges the public to remember the following guidelines when choosing safe toys:
• Size: the smaller the child, the bigger the toy must be
• Shape: no sharp or rough edges
• Surface: should be non-toxic and non-flammable
• Strings: remove long strings or cords, as it can easily be wrapped around a child’s neck, risking strangulation
Guidelines on the toy can help you make buying decisions, but use your own best judgement and consider your child’s temperament, habits and behaviour whenever you buy new toys. You may think that a child who is advanced in comparison to their peers can handle toys meant for older kids, but the age levels for toys are determined by safety factors and not intelligence or maturity.
Keep the following toy safety measures in mind:
• The most important thing a parent can do is to supervise play. Young children explore objects by putting them in their mouths and once in the mouth the object can travel easily into either the swallowing pipe and/or the wind pipe.
• Toys should be large enough so that they cannot be swallowed or lodged in the windpipe.
• Always follow the guidelines on the specific toy indicating whether it is appropriate for the child’s age.
• Battery-operated toys should have battery cases that are secured with screws so that kids cannot pry them open. Batteries and battery fluid pose serious risks, including choking, internal bleeding and chemical burns.
• Ensure that ride-on toys are stable and that your child fits properly on the toy.
• Ensure that toys that make a noise aren’t too loud for your child. Toys that are too loud can contribute to hearing damage (especially toys that are held against the ear such as toy mobile phones).
• Check for ventilation before buying toys such as tents, masks and helmets.
• Check toys regularly for wear and tear to ensure that they aren’t broken or unusable – wooden toys shouldn’t have splinters, outdoor toys shouldn’t have rust and stuffed toys shouldn’t have broken seams.
• If toys require safety gear, buy it when you buy the toy.
• Outdoor play equipment requires impact-absorbing surfaces.
• Avoid walkers – babies in walker can fall over, walkers do not facilitate walking and may actually hinder certain motor development skills and walkers provide extra momentum and may assist babies to break through protective barriers such as safety gates.
• If you have any doubt about a toy’s safety, rather err on the side of caution and don’t allow your child to play with it.
After you have bought new toys, it is also important to make sure children know how to use them. Injuries can happen when a toy is misused.
• A two-year-old boy was recently treated at the hospital after ingesting 10 magnets, otherwise known as buckyballs – a stress toy for adults.
• The ingested magnets caused 12 holes in his bowel. Multiple magnets in the bowel attract each other and then cause holes all over the bowel.
• He was extremely ill and required approximately five hours in theatre to first locate and remove the magnets, before repairing the bowel.
• Magnetic bead toys are hazardous, having potential lethal consequences if ingested.
Principal Communications Officer: Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital
Tel: 021 658 5448