With the holiday and shopping season approaching, you may already be considering what toys to buy for the children on your list. But before you make those purchases, HSHS St. John’s Hospital reminds you to check the safety and age-range of the toys.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2018 (the most recent data available) there were an estimated 166,200 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. However, many can be prevented with proper precaution and supervision.

“When looking at possible gifts, we strongly recommend parents review the safety information and appropriate age for each toy,” said Dr. Douglas Carlson, medical director of HSHS St. John's Children's Hospital. “This is important for all ages, but it is especially so for toys that will be given to younger children who like to put things in their mouth. For gifts that are given to older children, it is important that they understand the correct way to play with a toy to avoid potentially harming or injuring themselves or others.”

Toy recalls are declining, with only 12 in 2019. One toy recalled contained lead.  Due to toy safety advocacy and awareness, a lot has improved since 2008, when there were 172 toy recalls, 19 of which were due to excessive lead content. Most toy recalls announced last year involved riding toys and toys that have small parts that can be a choking hazard.

Follow these tips from CPSC and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) to ensure your child is safe when playing with toys: 

  • Make sure toys are age appropriate. Check the label before buying, and toys for older children should be kept separate from toys for younger children.
  • Look for quality design and construction in all toys for all ages. Also make sure the toy would not cause injury if it fell on your child. 
  • Make sure all directions or instructions are clear and read all labels. Look for and heed recommendations and other safety warnings on toys and dolls.
  • Throw away packaging after the purchase (or gift opening). Packaging can present a choking hazard. Children can suffocate on plastic bags or chose on peanut-style packaging.
  • Avoid choking hazards. Never give balloons or small balls to young children. Children 3 years of age and younger should not be given toys with parts smaller than the opening of a toilet paper roll. 
  • Don’t allow children to play with magnet toys. If swallowed, some magnets attract to each other internally, causing infection, blockage and ulcerations.  
  • If it sounds too loud, it probably is. Some toys are loud enough to produce sounds that are loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss. Listen to toys before purchasing them, and be cautious in buying cap guns, talking dolls, toy cars with horns and sirens, walkie-talkies, instruments and more. 
  • Don’t allow children to play with long cords or strings. Toys with long strings or cords are dangerous as they can become wrapped around a child’s neck, causing strangulation. 
  • Make sure the toys do not contain toxic chemicals. Awareness of toxic chemicals in toys has largely eradicated them from being used any longer, but it’s worth double-checking before you buy – especially if they’re little ones who might put it in their mouth. 

To learn more about toy safety, visit https://www.cpsc.gov/safety-education/safety-guides/toys#resources.

Media Contact

Erica Johnson

Division Director of Marketing & Communications
HSHS Illinois
Office: (217) 814-4307
Cell: (217) 303-6344
erica.johnson@hshs.org

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