A Simple Guide on How to Buy Safe Toys for Children
If there’s a young child in your life, whether it’s your own child, a niece or nephew, or a friend’s child, you’re probably going to spend some time shopping for a gift for them. Between holidays and birthdays, there are plenty of occasions when you’ll find yourself browsing the toy section looking for the perfect gift. While it’s easy to just choose the toy that everybody wants or the one your child has asked for, it’s extremely important to make sure the toy you’re choosing is safe.
Dangerous toys are responsible for causing many childhood injuries every year. In 2014, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that approximately 252,000 people went to the emergency room because of injuries caused by toys. This is why it’s important to remember that the most popular or in-demand toys aren’t always the safest. (Remember the debacle with exploding hoverboards?) Here’s what you need to do to make sure you’re buying safe toys for children.
Location is Everything
When you’re shopping for toys, stick to products manufactured in the United States or Europe. Toys made in the U.S. and Europe have to meet stricter safety standards than toys made in other parts of the world do. For example, many toys made in China and Mexico have been found to contain lead or were made with lead paint, even if the packaging said it was a lead-free product. Since children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead poisoning, it’s extremely important that the toys they play with do not contain lead, especially if the child is still young enough that they might put the toy in their mouth. In some cases, lead has been found in toys like tea sets, which are intended to be put in the mouth.
Check the Packaging
Most toys will have a label on the packaging which indicates the age range the toy is intended for. There are some government regulations toys have to meet in order to be marked as safe for certain age ranges. For example, toys intended for children 3 and under cannot have pieces that are less than 2¼ inches long and 1¼ inches in diameter, otherwise it would be a choking hazard. Speaking of choking hazards, a general rule of thumb is that if the toy can fit in a cardboard tube from a roll of paper towel or toilet paper, it could be a choking hazard.
Also check the packaging for things like “non-toxic” or “no phthalates.” If you’re looking at an electric toy, make sure it’s marked “UL Approved.” Xylene, dibutyl phthalate, toulene, and benzene are other chemicals that have been linked to health problems.
If you’ve ever seen A Christmas Story, you know BB guns can put someone’s eye out. But toys like paintball guns, airsoft guns, and dart guns can also be very damaging to eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends you avoid these types of toys, along with any other toy that has sharp, protruding, or projectile parts. Out of all the emergency room visits caused by toy-related injuries in 2014, nearly half of them involved injuries to the face and head and eyes are an extremely vulnerable part of the face.
One of the biggest things to avoid when buying toys for young children is magnets. Magnets are extremely common, but if a child swallows more than one magnet, they can cause an intestinal blockage that requires surgery.
Check for Recalls
Last, but certainly not least, check to make sure a toy hasn’t been recalled. Although stores have a responsibility to stop selling products that have been recalled, recalled products do make their way onto store shelves and into the homes of unsuspecting consumers. Sites like recalls.gov, saferproducts.gov, and cpsc.gov are all excellent resources for finding out about toy recalls. On a related note, avoid buying toys through third-party sellers on sites like eBay or Craigslist since many people list defective products on there, not realizing they’ve been recalled.