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Narrator: Playing with toys is one of the best parts of being a kid. But you'll want to follow some important toy safety guidelines to keep your children safe.
Danielle, mom of Miles (age 2) and Jax (age 5): Toy safety is very important to both my husband and to me. So when we do get a new toy and we open the box, my husband and I do try our best to kind of check it out beforehand.
Narrator: How do you know if a toy is safe? Maria McMahon is the trauma center manager at Boston Children's Hospital and an expert on toy safety.
Trauma center manager Maria McMahon, R.N., MSN, CCRN: So, a general guideline for choosing toys for your children are the age recommendations, but you should always assess whether or not your child is developmentally able to listen to the directions, use the toy responsibly, and enjoy it.
Safety tip: Recommended age is just a starting point
Narrator: Remember, the "recommended age" on a toy's packaging is just a starting point. You'll need to use your judgment.
Watch out for toys with small parts or pieces – your child could swallow, inhale, or choke on them. This is the most common cause of toy-related injuries.
Safety tip: Check size of small parts for choking risk
You can use an empty toilet paper roll to check whether a toy or toy part poses a choking risk. If the object is small enough to fit through the roll, it could get stuck in your child's throat and block the airway.
Safety tip: Don’t give toys that shoot or launch to kids under 4
McMahon: Projectile toys contain small pieces which can be a choke hazard for children less than 4, as well as, they are not developmentally capable to follow directions and listen to a parent to say, "Don't point that at someone and shoot them," because that's how eye injuries occur.
Safety tip: Be vigilant when your child is playing with older children and their toys
Narrator: If you have older kids or you're visiting someone with older children, make sure the toys your younger child can get to are age appropriate. Toys with small parts – and other hazardous playthings – should be moved out of reach unless an adult is supervising closely.
Danielle: If there's small parts that Miles could get, we have to explain to Jax, this is a toy that we're only going to play with when Miles is sleeping or when one of us is around because we really can't risk Miles getting it.
Safety tip: Make sure your child can physically handle the toy
Narrator: It's also important to pick toys your child can physically handle. For example, don't give your child a bike that's too big or a scooter that's too advanced.
Every child riding a bike or scooter needs to wear a helmet.
Helmets are also important for inline skating, skiing, or other activities with risk of collision and head injury.
Whether you're looking at a new toy or one that's been used or handed down, choose toys that are of good quality.
Safety tip: Choose well-made toys
McMahon: It's important to choose well-made toys because they're more durable, they don't break as easily, they don't have small parts that might break off and cause a choke hazard.
Safety tip: Avoid toys with loose or broken pieces, sharp edges, chipped paint, or other hazards
It's also good to look to make sure that there aren't any loose pieces that might have, might break off or have broken off, causing sharp edges. You should always check the seams on stuffed animals to make sure they're not loose. And also, is there any chipped paint or any kind of material such as a string that might be a hazard to your child.
Narrator: In addition to these general toy safety tips, there are some specific cautions to keep in mind.
Toys to avoid: Latex or rubber balloons
Don't give your child rubber or latex balloons. If a child puts an uninflated balloon or a piece of a burst balloon in his mouth, it can form a tight seal in his airway and make it impossible for him to breathe. Mylar balloons are a safer choice.
Toys to avoid: Toys with long strings or cords
It's also important to avoid toys with a string or cord that's too long.
McMahon: Any toy that has a string or cord longer than 7 inches has a risk of strangulation. That means any toy that has a string could get wrapped around a child's neck or even their wrist or their finger and if pulled too tautly could cause damage.
Toys to avoid: Toys with small magnets
Narrator: Watch out for toys with small magnets, as well as magnetic desk toys marketed to adults. Magnets can be extremely dangerous if swallowed.
McMahon: The problem is that when you swallow magnets, especially if they're not magnetically connected, they travel through the intestines separately, but as they pass each other as they go through the intestine, they might magnetize together, causing the intestine to be caught in between, which is really dangerous.
Toys to avoid: Toys that contain harmful chemicals
Narrator: A final hazard to watch for is a toy that contains harmful chemicals.
Phthalates, for example, were banned from children's toys and teething rings in 2008. But they may still be found in older toys.
Other chemicals – including cadmium, lead, mercury, and arsenic – have been found in dolls, action figures, children's jewelry, stuffed animals, and other toys. It's another reason to be careful about choosing high-quality playthings that you can trust.
With some planning and vigilance, you can help make sure the toys your kids enjoy are safe – as well as lots of fun.