With Thanksgiving just around the corner, many of us are already starting to plan out Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases. This is a great time for families to find great deals on holiday presents for kids.
But did you know? According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 250,000 emergency department visits each year can be attributed to unsafe toys. And this number doesn’t include long-term damage caused by toxins in toys or other products marketed toward children.
That’s why for the last 34 years, the CPSC releases an annual toy safety report, called Trouble in Toyland, detailing what parents need to look out for in toys and warning them about which toys might not be safe for children. We dug into this report and are sharing some highlights to help guide your holiday shopping.
Easy to identify hazards
It’s especially important to check if a toy poses a choking hazard if you plan to give the toy to a child under 3 years of age. Game pieces, figurines and self-assembled items can contain parts that may be small enough for a child to choke on.
Balloons can also be dangerous. Children may accidentally inhale the balloon while inflating it, or swallow balloons while chewing on them. Parents should blow balloons up before giving them to children for play. An adult should also closely supervise children while they play with balloons and clean up any broken pieces as soon as possible, as small broken pieces can also be a choking hazard.
Products such as toy guns, action figures or music toys can make sounds that are loud enough to hurt a child’s hearing. And chances are, if the toy is annoying you from a different room, it is far too loud for a child’s sensitive hearing. The CPSC recommends that parents test toys before giving them to their children. If the toy sounds too loud, batteries can sometimes be removed to stop the noise or tape can be placed over the speaker to muffle the volume. It’s a win-win for parents and kids!
Age inappropriate toys
While at first glance, you may think that your child would love certain toys, but regardless of what your child enjoys, it’s essential to be mindful of what is appropriate for their age and development. For example, focus tools, like fidget spinners, seem like simple fun for all ages, but they have small parts that can pose a choking hazard to young children.
Toys with magnets can also be risky because young children often swallow small magnets found in toys like construction sets or education tiles.
Hidden toy dangers
Parents are not able to test toys for toxins, so it’s important to only purchase toys made in the United States after 2008, because these toys follow the latest standards regarding toxins in toys. Here are some of the main toxins parents should be on the look-out for and where they are most likely to be found:
- Lead is sometimes found in paint on cheap or imported toys.
- Boron may be found in store-bought slime. Many alternative, homemade recipes are fun for families to make together and only use safe, non-toxic ingredients.
- Cadmium is a toxic metal that is sometimes used as a substitute in inexpensive jewelry, which is often marketed to kids for dress-up. When kids play dress-up with jewelry, be sure to watch them carefully to ensure they do not put it in their mouths, chew on it or swallow it.
It’s been found in recent years that “smart toys” and tablets have recorded children’s voices and kept the data they entered. If these toys do not operate on a secure network, information may be vulnerable to hackers. Parents should pay close attention to the privacy settings on devices that their kids use, even on their teenager’s devices. They should also make sure that kids only use these toys and devices on a secure network. Parents should also have a conversation with their children about not sharing any personal information on devices like tablets.
Toys may be recalled for a variety of reasons, including choking hazards, toxins or burn risks. In 2019, 12 toys were recalled, with more than 600,000 units being returned to manufacturers. Recalled toys may still be available for sale online, and may also still be in homes. Before gifting an old or pre-owned toy, be sure to check with the CSPC to ensure that it has not been recalled.