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Environmental Health

Toy safety: Make playing all fun and games

Toy safety: Make playing all fun and games

Dec. 16, 2020

By Matt Cimino

Toys are a fundamental part of childhood. They stimulate learning and lead kids to develop fine motor skills. The sky is truly the limit in young imaginations, because good toys encourage even better creativity.

Playtime should be all fun and games, but parents and experts know that it might not always be that way. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, 174,100 children under the age of 15 visited the emergency room for toy-related injuries in 2016. That works out to 477 kids a day, and almost half of them were 5 years old or younger.

This sounds frightening, but there are some key steps you can take to keep toy safety in check.

1. Always consider your child’s age. With toys and games, read instructions and warning labels in order to find the ones best suited for your child. They can most often be found on the backs of boxes, or highlighted on the front.

2. Check the toy for any small parts or potential choking hazards. Small pieces that come with toys, like with action figures, can be dangerous for young kids. Games can come with similar hazards. Look for diagrams of the toy on boxes, and inspect them upon opening. 

3. Separate toys by age group. This is an important step not to overlook. Sometimes toys may seem safe, but are not recommended for the age group your child is in. Toys that are rated for older kids can pose risks for younger ages. Check boxes for age ratings. This is something that families with children in different age groups need to navigate to figure out how each child can play while remaining safe.

4. Use child-safe bins and containers to store toys. When playtime is over, store toys in bins that cannot be accessed by children. You can’t always supervise them, so taking this step can give you piece of mind in the off time.

5. Batteries. Batteries aren’t toys but you can’t address safety without going over how to keep kids’ safe when their items are often powered by batteries. Each year in the United States, more than 2,800 kids are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries. That's one child every three hours. The number of serious injuries or deaths as a result of button batteries has increased nine-fold in the last decade. Keep batteries out of reach of children. If you suspect your child has ingested a battery, go to the hospital immediately. Do not induce vomiting or have your child drink or eat something beforehand.

All of this leads up to perhaps the most important point: play with your kids! Children watch their parents all of the time, so they’ll be looking to you for guidance and inspiration. Show your kids how to play, but encourage them to discover their own ways too.

You’ll not only know they are safe, but they will be able to learn with you. Get in the habit of checking instructions on boxes, and know that age rated toys are done so for good reason. There are so many toys out there, so practice these safety tips to keep playtime the best part of the day.

Matt Cimino is a public information intern at Monongalia County Health Department.

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