Five extra tips to choose safe toys for kids of all ages

Blog04PharmaAdvantage-Toddler-Playing-With-BlocksIt’s easy to think choosing toys for kids is, well, child’s play.

But a quick scan of toy-related deaths and injuries reported by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) proves that everything from balloons (choking, asphyxiation), tricycles (falls) and even stuffed toys (choking, asphyxiation) pose real dangers.

Sure, you choose gifts that have passed regulatory standards, but sometimes that’s just not enough. There are plenty of hidden toy dangers of which most adults are unaware. Peruse these ideas to ensure the toys you choose to gift your young family members, friends, and acquaintances have an extra dollop of safety:

Don’t assume the child is mature for his/her age 
Err on the side of caution and choose toys on the low end of the spectrum, suggest experts at the Cooperative Extension System. If a child is 4 years old, choose toys for kids 3-5 not 5-7. If a toy is “not recommended for children under 3 (or any another age), believe it. That means, if the child hasn’t celebrated a third birthday, or perhaps just celebrated one, you may want to avoid it. Also, consider the individual child (if you’re not in regular contact with the child, ask parents for advice). Some rules of thumb from Toys that, for example, have projectiles are never suitable for a child under 4 – and even some 6-year-olds aren’t mature enough to handle them. Likewise, if a 3-year-old still puts everything into his mouth, wait a little longer to give him toys and games with small parts and pieces.

Beware of string and straps 
Musical instruments and even clothing with drawstrings (such as capes for dress-up) can easily catch on items and choke or strangle young children. If you have such a toy for a child, the best idea is to remove the string or strap, according to the University of California, San Francisco. And beware of used toys, says, which singled out an older model of a popular play kitchen that might have a phone attached with a potentially deadly cord. The newer versions have safer “cordless” phones.

Consider volume 
Even seemingly harmless toys well within a child’s age range can damage hearing. The CPSC noise rate rules measured sound level at a length that is longer than a child’s arm. That means, if a child could have his or her head closer to the item, the “safe” rating does not apply. Besides musical toys, stuffed animals with music boxes and toy telephones, beware of cap guns that older kids may use, especially if they’re close to an infant or toddler.

Don’t think older kids can handle what they’re given 
Even teens should not be given toys that might be beyond their physical capacities. Bikes that are too large for kids are a prime example, noted the guidelines. Kids can easily fall off and injure themselves, even when wearing helmets, if they can’t control the bicycle.

Beware of magnets 
Certainly magnets that look like food can attract young kids who might try to eat them. But there are other magnet dangers not so readily apparent. The CPSC cautions that some toys contain small, powerful magnets. If two or more are swallowed they can be attracted to each other through intestinal walls. Between 2009 and 2011, the CPSC recorded 22 such accidents reported to them, including 11 incidents that required surgery. Their advice: Keep magnets away from kids younger than age 14.