Store shelves and websites abound with brightly colored boxes full of gadgets and toys for the kids on your shopping list. But before you buy, make sure your purchases are safe choices for all the children in your life.
Match toys to kids’ ages
Check the toy’s packaging for age restrictions to ensure the gift is appropriate. These age guidelines take into account the game or toy’s compatibility with a child’s maturity, interest level, and risk for choking or injury.
You should also consider other children who live in the household. An eight-year-old may be excited to receive a jewelry-making set with hundreds of small beads, but if there’s a two-year-old in the house, it might not be the best present.
“One of the many things we see is toddlers putting beads into their nose or ears, and most often they found them in an older sibling’s playthings,” says Nancy Pook, MD, emergency medicine physician and medical director of the Network Operations Command Center at Kettering Health Network.
If you have children in your home, supervision is key, especially if you have an older child with more complex toys and games. Find something age-appropriate to keep your little one occupied.
Avoid toys with small parts
The most common toy-related incident seen with young children is their eating or breathing in objects—so it’s essential to keep small toys, especially those with small plastic parts that can’t be seen on an X-ray, stored away.
“Be attentive to what’s in the child’s environment,” Dr. Pook advises. “Keep things organized and put them in bins so the baby or toddler can’t get into something that may be sitting around.”
Ingestion of batteries—especially button batteries—can also be a dangerous risk for young children, as they can cause damage in just a couple of hours, says Dr. Pook.
Watch for alerts
“Occasionally things like lead exposure will pop up in recently manufactured toys, but it’s rare,” Dr. Pook says. “Unfortunately, you just have to pay attention to safety warnings that come out later if it’s a brand-new manufactured toy.
For that reason, follow the news during the first few weeks after popular toys have hit homes as holiday gifts.
Know when to seek help
Prevention of risky situations is crucial to keeping your children safe. However, if an accident happens, you should know what to do.
If a swallowed toy is blocking the child’s airway, it might be appropriate to perform the Heimlich maneuver, but you will want to call 911 immediately. Even if your child is breathing and does not appear distressed, it is still a good idea to bring them to the emergency department where doctors have special tools to remove foreign objects.
Find emergency services near you.