The holiday season is here and for many kids that means one thing — toys. Approximately 50 percent of all toy purchases in the United States occur between the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
While parents are on a mad dash to scoop up the hottest toys, safety should remain at the top of their wish lists. In 2010, an estimated 181,500 toy-related injuries in children aged 14 years and younger were treated in hospital emergency rooms across the U.S. With the federal toy safety standards passed by Congress in 2008, parents can be reassured that the vast majority of toys on store shelves are safe.
"Right now, parents and caregivers are preparing for the country's busiest toy-buying season, and the improved safety standards allow them to shop with more confidence than ever," Safe Kids Snohomish County Coordinator Shawneri Guzman said. "However, it doesn't mean we should throw caution to the wind. Shoppers should still make sure they are buying age-appropriate toys and following important toy safety guidelines."
Among the top tips for making sure children's toys are safe during this holiday season:
• Before shopping for toys, consider the child's age, interest and skill level. A fun but inappropriate toy for a particular child can be dangerous.
• Make sure toys intended for older children are stored separately from those for younger children.
• Children can choke on small toys and toy parts. Keep toys with small parts away from children under the age of 3, and check toys regularly for damage that could create small pieces that are choking hazards.
• Actively supervise children when they are playing with riding toys, as well as any toy that has small parts, magnets, electrical or battery power, cords and strings, wheels or any other potential hazard. Active supervision means keeping the child in sight and in reach while paying undivided attention to them.
• Avoid letting children play with electronic devices that are only intended for adults, such as key fobs, mini remote controls, watches, flameless candles and singing greeting cards. Many of these items contain coin-sized button batteries, which can be deadly if ingested, and should be kept out of reach if the battery compartments are not secure.
• Know the risks associated with children swallowing coin-sized button batteries, and know which devices in your home contain these types of batteries. Go to the emergency room immediately if you suspect a child has swallowed a battery. For additional information, visit www.TheBatteryControlled.com.
To stay informed about harmful products in the marketplace, parents can log onto www.recalls.gov and sign up for email alerts on recalled children's products.
"It's too difficult to get your information piecemeal from TV or the newspaper," Guzman said, "so if you get the emails sent to you each time a recall happens, you'll know right away which products to avoid."
Safe Kids Snohomish County reminds parents that most toys are safe, especially if you buy from reputable retailers.
"That doesn't mean you have to go to a 'big box' store," Guzman said. "But if you shop at a locally owned toy store, make sure that the owner is aware and vigilant about getting recalled items off the shelves."
If secondhand toys are purchased, or received from friends or relatives, Safe Kids Snohomish County advises parents to visit www.cpsc.gov and make sure those toys haven't been recalled for safety reasons. Used toys should also be in good condition with all their original parts and packaging, if possible. If a new toy comes with a product registration card, mail it in right away so the manufacturer can contact you if the item is ever recalled.