How to Prevent Toy Injuries

Armen Hareyan's picture
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While toys can be a big part of the holidays for children, many can pose serious injury risks at different stages of a child's development according to Duke University Medical Center emergency room workers.

Claudia McCormick, program director of the Duke Trauma Center, said parents can help prevent toy-related injuries by following simple safety guidelines, beginning with shopping for the toy.

"Always read the warning label on the box before buying any toy," she said. "This will give you the information about what age child the toy is designed for and whether adult supervision is recommended. This system of warning labels is very effective."

McCormick said it is particularly important to read and to follow the age recommendations on toy packages, since a toy that is too advanced or too simple for a child may be misused. These recommendations are based on general developmental stages for each age group, and may not correspond exactly to every child's ability level, she said.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, age recommendations reflect a toy's safety based on:

  • possible choking hazards;
  • the physical ability of a child to play with the toy;
  • the ability of a child to understand how to play with the toy; and
  • the needs and interests at various levels of a child's development.

Toddlers and preschoolers are at special risk for unsafe toys, said McCormick.

"In general, the bigger the pieces, the better it is," she said. "Many toy stores have charts to help you determine how big a toy part should be in order to prevent choking. It's also important to keep younger children away from their older siblings' toys. Toys that may be appropriate for older children, especially those with small parts or projectile parts, should be kept away from small children."

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Balloons are a festive touch at holiday time, but can pose a serious choking risk for kids. McCormick recommends that parents blow up balloons for children or purchase pre-inflated Mylar balloons. She also cautioned against leaving uninflated balloons or balloon scraps lying around where a child can reach them. This could be a serious choking hazard.

Tricycles and bicycles are a perennial favorite holiday gift. While it may be tempting to buy a bicycle in a larger size in order to avoid having to buy another bike when the child outgrows the first, a bike that is too large for a child could increase the risk of injury, she said.

When considering a bicycle as a gift, McCormick urged parents to make bike safety a priority.

"Buy the safety equipment that goes along with it, like the bike helmet or the safety pads that go with the skateboard," she says. "And teach the child the rules for using it. If you're riding a bike, what are the rules of the road? Where are the safe places to ride? And be sure to supervise your child while they're learning to ride.

"Parents should always teach and model safety for their children. This is the gift that needs to go along with the toy itself."

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The source of this article is http://www.dukehealth.org

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