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December Is Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness Month

In the classic holiday movie A Christmas Story, Ralphie is told by multiple people, including his mother, his teacher, and even Santa Claus, that he will not be getting a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with Compass. “You’ll shoot your eye out!” he is warned. Toys should be fun, but they certainly can be dangerous, too. December is a time to recognize the importance of toy safety.

Toy Injuries

With parents spending more hours at home and looking for ways to occupy their kids’ time, toy sales are booming this year. In fact, the NPD Group, a market research and consumer trends company, reports that the toy industry experienced a 19 percent jump in sales the first three quarters of 2020. The National Retail Federation also predicts that an increase of up to 5 percent more toys and recreational equipment will be sold during this holiday season than last year, a two-month period when sales average nearly 20 percent of the annual total.

More toys in circulation could mean an increase in toy-related injuries. In an average year, about 217,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries from toys. In 2018, 226,000 children were treated for such injuries and 17 children died, 37 percent of whom were children ages 5 and younger.

Toys that cause the most harm are riding toys, such as tricycles and nonmotorized scooters. In fact, nonmotorized vehicles accounted for 19 percent of injuries in children ages 15 and under.

Injuries and death can occur from riding toys when:

  • a child falls from the toy
  • a child is hit by a motor vehicle while riding a toy
  • a child rides the toy into a body of water

Other causes of toy-related deaths include choking, drowning, and suffocation. About half of all toy-related injuries occur to a child’s head or face. Because they tend to put objects in their mouths and their upper airways are smaller than in older children, children under age 3 are at high risk for choking on older children’s toys.

Recalled Toys of 2020

World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) is a consumer watchdog group that informs the public about the dangers present in toys, recreational activities, and products for children. W.A.T.C.H. has compiled a list of the 10 Worst Toys of 2020, including the following (to view a slideshow of the list and pictures, visit the W.A.T.C.H. website):

  1. Calico Critters, sold by Amazon, Kohl’s, Walmart. Hazard: Potential for choking injuries
  2. Missile Launcher, sold by Home Goods. Hazard: Potential for eye and face injuries
  3. Marvel Avengers Vibranium, sold by Kmart, Amazon, Walmart. Hazard: Potential for eye and face injuries
  4. Gloria Owl, sold by Home Goods, Amazon, The Paper Source, Saks Fifth Avenue. Hazard: Potential for ingestion and aspiration injuries
  5. WWE Jumbo Superstar Fists, sold by Kmart and Amazon. Hazard: Potential for blunt force and impact injuries
  6. Scientific Explorer Sci-Fi Slime, sold by Amazon, Kohl’s, Toyespresskids.com, Magic Beans. Hazard: Potential for chemical-related injuries
  7. The Original Boomerang Interactive Stunt UFO, sold by Target and Walmart. Hazard: Potential for cutting and propeller-related injuries
  8. Boom City Racers Starter Pack, sold by Amazon, Target, Walmart. Hazard: Potential for eye and face injuries
  9. My Sweet Love: Lots to Love Babies Minis, sold by Walmart. Hazard: Potential for ingestion and choking injuries
  10. Star Wars Mandalorian Darksaber, sold by Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Walmart. Hazard: Potential for blunt force and eye injuries

What Parents Can Do to Prevent Toy Injuries

Parents and other adults gifting toys to children can help reduce the number of injuries by being aware of the following:

  • Check for recalls on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website.
  • Inspect all toys before purchasing, avoiding parts that shoot or fly off. Look for sharp edges or points, choosing toys that are sturdy and will not break apart on impact, be crushed, or be pulled apart.
  • When choosing toys for kids with special needs, find those that appeal to different senses, are interactive to allow children to play with others, and are of a size and weight easy for kids who are not able-bodied to play with.
  • Check toys for age level, skill level, and whether they are developmentally appropriate.
  • Toys should be at least 1.25 inches (3 cm) in diameter and 2.25 inches (6 cm) in length to avoid getting swallowed or lodged in the windpipe.
  • Avoid gifting marbles, coins, and games with balls that are 1.75 inches (4.4 cm) in diameter or smaller.
  • Avoid toys with high-powered magnets that, if swallowed, can join inside the body, causing a blockage in the intestines.
  • Look for labels that ensure the toy has passed safety inspection; note the ATSM label, which means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
  • Toys for babies and toddlers should be strong enough to be chewed on without breaking.
  • Toys and clothing for babies and toddlers should have strings less than 7 inches (18 cm) long.
  • Look for safety harnesses on riding toys, like rocking horses and wagons, as well as the stability and security of the toy.
  • Gift protective gear with sports equipment, such as knee and elbow pads with skates or a helmet with a skateboard.
  • Be aware of toys that have been recalled and vintage toys whose paint may contain lead.
  • Consider the size of the toy and size of the parts, never giving toys with small parts, including button batteries and magnets, to young children.
  • Battery compartments on toys should come with screws to secure them.
  • Do not gift toys with ropes, cords, or heating elements.
  • Do not gift crayons, markers, pens, paints, and other art supplies unless they are labeled as nontoxic.
  • Do not buy toys made of fabric that are not labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Avoid loud toys that can damage hearing.
  • Balloons pose choking and suffocation hazards. Keep balloons away from children under age 8 and discard immediately if popped or deflated.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Stuffed toys from carnivals, fairs, and vending machines are not required to meet safety standards. Check them for loose parts, sharp edges, long strings, hair or fur that can be dislodged, and other hazards before allowing an infant or toddler to have them.

Parents can check for size appropriateness by using a choke tube (a toilet-paper roll tube is an alternative). If an object fits inside the tube, it is too small for a young child to have.

For more information, including safety alerts on toys, arts and crafts, packaging, and other product hazards, visit the U.S. CPSC website.

Herrick Library Resources

The following magazines have published articles on toy appropriateness and safety and can be read via Flipster:

  • Better Homes & Gardens
  • Parents
  • Parents Latina
  • Your Teen for Parents


Sources: Child and Family Services, December Is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month, https://child-familyservices.org/december-is-national-safe-toys-and-gifts-month/; Consumer Reports, Important Toy Safety Tips for Holiday Gift Buying, https://www.consumerreports.org/child-safety/toy-safety-tips-holiday-gift-buying/; KidsHealth, Choosing Safe Toys for Toddlers and Preschoolers, https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/safetoys-young.html; Kids in Danger, CPSC Reports on Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries, https://kidsindanger.org/2019/12/cpsc-reports-on-toy-related-deaths-and-injuries/; National Retail Federation, Winter Holiday FAQs, https://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/apha-calendar/2020/safe-toys-and-gifts-month-2020; NPD, The NPD Group: U.S. Toy Industry Experienced 19 Percent Growth in the First Three Quarters of 2020, https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/2020/us-toy-industry-experienced-19-percent-growth-in-the-first-three-quarters-of-2020/#:~:text=The%20NPD%20Group%3A%20U.S.%20Toy,%2C%20reports%20The%20NPD%20Group*; Stanford Children’s Health, Toy Safety—Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates, https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=toy-safety–injury-statistics-and-incidence-rates-90-P03000; W.A.T.C.H., The “10 Worst Toys” List, https://toysafety.org/, https://toysafety.org/portfolio-items/toy-1-2020/

Graphics: Alliance for Children and Families, https://www.allianceforchildrenandfamilies.org/national-safe-toys-and-gifts-month/; W.A.T.C.H., https://toysafety.org/portfolio-items/toy-1-2020/

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