According to the National Retail Federation, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is typically the most popular time of the year for consumers to purchase toys. In fact, holiday sales account for 20-30 percent of annual retail sales each year. Unfortunately, however, far too many of toy purchases ultimately lead to emergency room visits. What’s more, some dog toys can injure pets.
In a recent report, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that more than 226,000 U.S. hospital emergency room visits were linked to children’s toys in 2019, with at least 17 toy-related deaths last year. Sponsored each year by the American Safety & Health Institute, National Safe Toy Awareness Month is designed to reduce these staggering figures.
Non-motorized scooters and riding toys represent the highest fatality statistics. Five of the deaths reported last year resulted from injuries related to this type of toy. Tragically, three children drove toy vehicles into the street and were hit by oncoming cars. Two children accidentally drove their toy cars into pools and drowned. Choking is the second most common toy related injury. Children often choke on balloons, plastic toy food, stuffed animals, dolls, and dart guns, which contain small pieces which can obstruct airways if swallowed.
This holiday season (and always), consider the following guidelines when choosing toys to make sure they are safe and appropriate for all age groups:
The first step in safety is a visual inspection. Make sure the toy appears to be intact and well-made. Check each item for age, skill-level, and developmental appropriateness.
Don’t purchase toys that have parts that can shoot or fly off. The toy should not have sharp edges or points. Also, make sure it is sturdy enough to withstand abuse without breaking into small pieces which could be ingested. This should also be true of dog toys. Make sure they can hold up to lots of abuse.
Consider not only the child you are purchasing the toy for but siblings and other visitors who could play with the toy. If the recipient has special needs, select toys that appeal to senses such as sound, movement, and texture. Consider interactive toys to allow the child to play with others. And think about the size of the toy and the position a child would need to be in to play with it.
Check labels to ensure the toys have passed a safety inspection by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ATSM).
Sporting goods’ equipment should always be accompanied by protective gear. For example, if you give a bicycle or skateboard, include a helmet and wrist guards. If you buy your pet a chew toy, make sure he has teeth.
Educate yourself about the possibility of lead exposure from toys. Determine how to recognize and treat lead poisoning. Teach your kids to wash their hands whenever they finish playing with their toys. If you suspect your child has been exposed to lead, immediately call your pediatrician.
Since toys are routinely recalled, replace them on a regular basis so you won’t risk unwittingly storing recalled items in your child’s toy box. This sounds like a good idea, anyway. Kids (and dogs) get sick of playing with the same toys all of the time.
Never give toys that have ropes and cords or heating elements.
Don’t buy crayons and markers unless they are clearly labeled “nontoxic.”
No matter how safe you think your kids’ toys are, nothing replaces adult supervision. And what better way to enjoy the holiday season than by hanging out with your kids? May I suggest also hanging out with your dog?
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