Before you head out and do any last-minute gift shopping or think about what toys in your house to donate, you may want to consider the safety of those toys.
December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month, and the goal is to bring awareness to parents, family, and friends when purchasing items for their loved ones.
Per the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 2015 received 11 reports of toy-related deaths for children under the age of 15 years. Riding toys were associated with five of the deaths in 2015.
That same year an estimated 254,200 toy-related injuries forced children into local emergency rooms. The most common injuries included lacerations, abrasions, and contusions – mostly to the upper extremities.
Specific toy components are unsafe regardless of age. Other times, it is a matter of picking a toy appropriate for the child’s age and maturity.
When you do your Christmas shopping this month – or buy gifts for children any time of the year – always consider these top toy hazards so that your recipients can enjoy their toys safely.
Sometimes it is not the toy, but the packaging and wrapping that it comes in. Plastic wrapping and securing pieces are standard with today’s toys. Therefore, an adult should open the package and then immediately discard these pieces – never allowing the child to play with them.
Younger children might feel confident in their ability to change out batteries, but their handling of those batteries and disposal is not as safe. An adult should do battery changing or at the very least, carefully supervise the child. You must also ensure that the batteries are discarded and not left for small children to find and swallow.
Also, pay careful attention to any proper usage directions and warnings for battery chargers. Some chargers have a high risk of catching fire or heating a device to a dangerous level if they are left to charge for too long.
Balloons can choke and suffocate a child – especially when deflated. Even if you are giving the balloons to older children, having them around when smaller children are in that same household poses a serious safety risk. Keep these balloons away from smaller children and the second they deflate or burst they should be discarded.
Magnets, especially high-powered varieties, are very dangerous for children who still put things in their mouth. Do not assume that older children would not place magnets in their mouth and accidentally ingest them. The ingestion of more than one magnet could be life threatening, so please take these warnings seriously. Therefore, it is best that children under the age of 10 not have magnets without supervision.
Also, any building sets that use magnets should be kept away from younger children always.
Cords and strings come on toys even for younger children, but they are not safe. These pose a serious strangulation hazard – especially for small children. Any toys with loose strings, cords, ribbons, or loops should have these hazards cut off.
Also, if your child is old enough to stand up in his or her crib, remove any mobiles hanging over the crib to avoid the risk of strangulation.
Toys with sharp edges, even if they are made from plastic, can cause lacerations, eye injuries, and be dangerous for small children. Examine a toy and consider the quality of the product. Toys with thin or cheap plastic are more likely to break and create sharp edges that could be harmful.
For children under the age of three, toys should always be larger than their mouth. By age three, most children have grown out of the urge to put toys in their mouth and can safely play with smaller pieces. But even then, you must consider the child’s maturity and habits. If an older child still tends to put their toys in their mouth, avoid gifts with small pieces until they are mature enough to play with them safely.
Large toys that weigh more and are considerably larger than the child are not appropriate. If the toy falls on the child, would it injure them? If the answer is yes, or maybe – then it is best not to buy this toy.
Even when a toy appears safe, make sure that it does not contain any harmful chemicals. Chemicals like phthalates, also known as plasticizers, make plastic products flexible and durable and is a frequent chemical in toys.
Toxins to avoid include cadmium, lead, mercury, and arsenic, which have been found in children’s toys and products sold in the United States. Even stuffed animals have been recalled for containing toxic chemicals.
Look at the labels on the toys and ensure that they have passed safety inspections and met the ASTM standards for chemical testing.
Even a safe toy can be dangerous when it is misused. Always show a child how to play with their new toy. For older children, show them where to store their toys so that younger siblings do not get ahold of the smaller components.
Any riding toy, such as a scooter, skateboard, skates, or even hoverboard can go fast and lead to devastating accidents. When you give a child a riding toy for Christmas or birthdays, be sure to include a helmet. Take the child with you if you are unsure of their size, and buy a helmet that fits well. For smaller children just learning how to ride a bike, consider other protective gear like knee and elbow pads.
Remember when purchasing gifts for children with special needs to choose toys that appeal to their senses, but also do not overwhelm them. Some children may become easily agitated or overwhelmed with toys that are too loud.
Crayons, markers, clay, and playdough should all contain “non-toxic” labels and have certifications in passing ASTM standards. Do not assume because a big retailer sells an off-brand item that it is free from chemicals. In fact, crayons and other art supplies are frequently recalled because they contain lead or other toxic materials.
Avoid cap guns. Cap guns can be ignited with the slightest amount of friction and cause burns.
Also, any rifle you give to a child should be monitored closely and only used under adult supervision – especially if the child is under 13 years old. Do not allow children to shoot at targets without placing them against a solid surface and ensure all other children are out of the line of fire.
Even after you have purchased a toy that meets the above standards, perform your due diligence by frequently checking the recall list by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Their recall list is updated immediately when a recall is issued and will give you step-by-step instructions for returning the item.
Defective toys fall under product liability laws.
Therefore, when a defective toy injures a child, you may file a lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor, or retailer selling the item.
Product liability holds manufacturers and others in the distribution chain responsible for allowing defective products to get into the hands of consumers. Anyone within the distribution chain could be liable for the injuries – including small retailers selling the product.
The law requires that manufacturers ensure their products are safe for consumers. When a manufacturer either designs or produces a toy defectively, that defect may very well lead to an injury. When that happens, the manufacturer and/or retailer has breached the duty of care owed to the customer – and a lawsuit can result.
Under product liability, the plaintiff carries the burden of proof. That means the plaintiff must show that the product was defective or dangerous. Typically, these lawsuits fall under three general categories:
When a toy or children’s product causes injury, it is crucial that you speak with an injury attorney in Connecticut. A product liability attorney can help determine what type of defects were present and file a claim against the manufacturer.
One rule that might help your product liability case is strict liability. When strict liability applies, the plaintiff does not have the burden to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. This greatly decreases the burden of proof on the plaintiff (you). Now, you only have to show that the product was defective.
Defective products are sold in the United States every day. Sadly, many of these products stay on the shelves for months before their true dangers are discovered. When a defective toy injures you or your child, you have the right to hold manufacturers accountable.
To do so, you need a product liability lawyer to represent you and handle your case.