November 21, 2019

Smart picks for holiday toy shopping


Make sure to follow age recommendations for holiday toys and avoid these items while shopping for kids.

The holidays are ramping up, and toys are a top topic.

As shoppers search for sales this season, injury prevention advocates want to raise awareness about the need to check for safety standards for toys — especially those purchased online.

“Buying the hottest and trendiest toys for your child may be the first thing that crosses your mind this holiday season, but remember that safety should always come first,” said Purnima Unni, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program manager at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“A significant number of parents who shop for toys on the internet don’t realize that imitation toys aren’t tested and verified to comply with United States toy safety standards,” Unni said. “Internet purchases are a big concern for us because these toys, not regulated by U.S. safety organizations, could pose a danger to children.”

Unni also urged consumers to choose age-appropriate toys for young children and be conscientious of gifting items that help prevent toy-related injuries. An example — riding toys are a very popular gift. Including appropriate safety gear like helmets, knee and elbow pads could avert a trip to the emergency department.

Unni said several children are treated in the emergency department each year for toy-related injuries.

Nationally, there was an estimated 251,700 toy-related, emergency department-treated injuries in 2017, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission with 13 toy-related deaths reported that calendar year.

“Good toys for young children need to match their stages of development and emerging abilities,” said Unni. “When getting gifts for babies and toddlers, look at the labels, which are meant to be a helpful tool to the buyer.”

Unni urges gift-givers to be mindful of the following critical safety tips:

  • Check the label. Follow age guidance and other safety information on packaging. (Age grading is based on safety concerns and on the developmental appropriateness for children.)
  • Avoid toys with small parts, as well as marbles and small balls, for children under age 3.
  • Ensure that stuffed toys have age-appropriate features such as embroidered or secured eyes and noses for younger children and seams that are reinforced to withstand an older child’s play.
  • Be careful with magnets. If a toy has magnet pieces be careful. High-powered magnet sets are a safety risk. Children can swallow loose magnets, causing serious intestinal injuries.
  • Battery-operated toys should be closely examined. The law states that battery compartments can only be opened with a tool. If the compartment is accessible without a tool, report the violation to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Button batteries are dangerous. A child can swallow a button battery and suffer chemical burns in as little as two hours.
  • Get safety gear. With scooters and other riding toys, be sure to include helmets. Helmets should always be worn properly, and they should be sized to fit.
  • Know your seller. Purchase toys from retailers you know and trust.

More safety tips are available on the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt website.