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Safety First When Choosing Gifts for Kids

By Rebecca Andresen, APRN November 20, 2021 Posted in: Parenting

December is the ideal time for National Safe Toys and Gifts month as that is when we are picking out holiday gifts for our children -- and also for nieces, nephews, grandkids and friends.

Tips for Shopping Safely for Kids

If you’re not a parent or your kids are getting older and asking for new things, there are several things to consider:

Read the Labels

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the organization which establishes the age guidelines followed by toy manufacturers. You can also look for these labels showing toys have passed a safety inspection:

  • ATSM means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
  • ASTM D-4236 means art materials (crayons, paints, etc.) have been reviewed by a toxicologist.

Button Batteries and Magnets

Infants, toddlers and even older kids are tempted to put these shiny objects and coin-shaped batteries in their mouths. Not only are they a choking hazard, but can become even more problematic if they get stuck in a child’s digestive tract and release the battery acid. For that reason, swallowing a battery requires an immediate trip to the emergency room. Because they are found in a multitude of small electronic devices and light-up toys, it is important to ensure toys are age-appropriate and that the battery compartments are secured tightly with screws. This is something that should be checked monthly, as the screws can come loose at any time.

Small Pieces

Barbie shoes, Lego blocks, game pieces -- all those little items can find their way into the ears, noses, and mouths of curious kids. The CPSC also requires labeling on toys specifically for children ages 3 to 6, which pose a choking hazard for children under age 3. Be sure to read and follow those labels. For reference, objects with a diameter of 1.75 inches or less are a choking hazard for children under the age of 3.

Violent Content

The video games that are available now are different from the games of the past. Their interactive and virtual reality aspects can numb kids to violence. As a parent or caregiver, you should always know what your kids are playing - either by previewing the game or at least by reading information about them. Learning games are always better options than potentially violent games, especially for younger children.

Wheeled Items

Whether it’s a skateboard, bike, trike, or hover board, make sure you invest in all the appropriate safety gear - helmets, knee pads, etc. The gift giver -- parent or relative -- should know the child’s limits and capabilities and if they do not, then they should ask the child’s caregiver to be certain. It’s important to monitor use and watch conditions, such as rainy, slick or rocky surfaces. Even a pogo stick can be dangerous, so someone should always be monitoring the use of this type of equipment.

Outdoor Equipment

Trampolines are the bane of a care provider’s existence due to broken bones, head injuries and other potentially serious mishaps. If you still choose to get one, make sure there’s safety netting and monitor how it’s being used. I know of a parent who chained the trampoline in place so it couldn’t be moved near a deck. This removed the temptation to jump from deck to trampoline.  The same can be said for outdoor gym equipment, swing sets, or play sets.   It’s important to remember that most kids don’t have the same fear factor or understanding of consequences - and online videos make stunts look easy and fun. Vigilance is essential.

Age Appropriateness

Use the age recommendations listed on toy boxes as a general guideline. It’s also important to consider the individual child. Those with developmental delays or autistic spectrum disorders may have other issues to consider as well. When in doubt, talk to the child’s parents for preferences, they know best what will work for their child for their specific developmental age or needs, as well as what interests them.

Final Reminders for Kids' Gifts

In the age of the pandemic, when purchasing toys or gifts, it is important to keep in mind what can be sanitized easily and quickly, especially when kids are at the age where everything ends up in their mouth.  Another thought is for the safety of items are that of second hand purchases or gifts, as well as any new items.  It is important to inspect the item for any rips or tears, especially in baby equipment or clothing, as they are unable to help themselves if something becomes stuck.  Please ensure all clips and buckles are secured in place on any items that will be given for small children to use and that they cannot be broken off or cause a risk of choking or harm if misused.

Nearly any object can become dangerous in the hands of kids, and things can go wrong quickly. That’s why it’s also important for parents to also have conversations with kids about safe habits.

Learn more about CHI Health's tips for parents.

Rebecca Andresen, APRN
Rebecca Andresen, APRN

Rebecca Andresen, APRN is specialized in Family Medicine and practices at CHI Health Clinic Family Medicine

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