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Toy Safety

Safe Kids Northeast Florida

Toy Safety

Parents and caregivers can make sure they're choosing safe toys for their children by paying close attention to warning labels and manufacturer's guidelines.

"More than three billion toys and games are sold in the United States every year, and most of them are very safe. Warning labels and manufacturers' instructions tell you how to use the product safely," says Cynthia Dennis, RN, Safe Kids Northeast Florida coordinator. "If the manufacturer sets a minimum age or other restrictions, there's a reason. Follow the instructions."

Nationwide in 2003, more than 155,000 children ages 14 and under (including nearly 53,000 children ages 4 and under) were treated in emergency rooms for toy-related injuries.

"By far, the biggest category of toy-related injuries - about 40 percent - involves riding toys, such as scooters, inline skates and skateboards," says Dennis. "If you give a riding toy to a child, remember: the gift isn't complete without a helmet and protective gear." Riding toys should not be used near vehicle traffic, stairs, swimming pools or bodies of water.

Under federal law, new toys cannot contain hazardous substances or pose a danger of electrical shock, burns or mechanical injury (such as pinched or cut fingers). Any toy with small parts must be labeled as a choking hazard if intended for ages 3 to 6 and is prohibited if intended for children less than 3 years old. Hazardous art materials must be labeled as "inappropriate for use by children," and realistic-looking toy guns are subject to labeling requirements.

"If you buy toys secondhand or get hand-me-downs, visit www.recalls.gov to make sure the toy hasn't been recalled for safety reasons," says Dennis. "If a new toy comes with a product registration card, mail it in right away so the manufacturer can contact you if the item is ever recalled."

Safe Kids Northeast Florida also recommends these precautions:

  • Use a small parts tester (available in quantity from the Safe Kids Resource Catalog) or the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper to identify choking hazards. Do not let small children play with anything that can fit into one of these cylinders.
  • Inspect toys often to make sure they are in good repair. Do not let young children play with broken toys or toys with straps, cords or strings longer than 7 inches, due to the risk of strangulation.
  • Supervise children playing with any toy that has small parts, moving parts, electrical or battery power, cords, wheels or any other potentially risky component. Simply being in the same place as your child is not necessarily supervising. An actively supervised child is in sight and in reach at all times and is receiving your undivided attention.
  • Teach children to put toys away after playing, to help prevent falls and unsupervised play, and make sure toys intended for younger children are stored separately from those for older children.
  • Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety
    hazards for younger children.
  • Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy that he has received as a gift, read the instructions carefully.
  • To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don't give young children (under age ten) a toy that must be plugged into an
    electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
  • Children under age three can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys
    for children under age three cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
  • Children under age 8 can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Remove strings and ribbons from toys before
    giving them to young children.
  • Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.

For more information about toy safety, protective equipment and choking, visit www.safekids.org.

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