No matter what you are celebrating this time of year, toys and gifts for the little ones in your life are probably part of it. So, it’s hardly surprising that December is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month.

One of the best parts of the holidays is watching your children’s faces as they open their presents. Those joyful moments, however, can end up with a trip to the emergency room if a toy is not age-appropriate, manufactured with dangerous materials or simply badly made.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, an estimated 198,000 toy-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments in 2020, boys accounted for 57 percent of the injuries.  Nine toy-related child fatalities were reported.  

One of the most common injuries, among young children, is choking. Toddlers especially tend to be drawn to anything small they can stick in their mouths. It’s their way of exploring the world. So, it’s natural that the tiny pieces from toys and the small batteries used to operate some of those toys are irresistible to small mouths, making them a choking hazard.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), one U.S. child chokes to death approximately every five days; and 75 percent of choking deaths occur in children under the age of 3 years, making choking a leading cause of death in infants and toddlers. (AAP). A gag reflex often protects children from choking, but because a child’s windpipe is narrow (about the size of a drinking straw’s diameter) compared to that of an adult they are at far greater risk of choking than someone older.

Toy Safety Tips

With some vigilance and attention, these hazards can be avoided, and the festivities can remain joyful and safe. Here are some tips for ensuring that the toys and gifts you purchase for the little ones in your life are safe:

  • Check for safety labels that would indicate if the product is toxic.
  • Look for the American Society for Testing and Materials tag. 
  • Choose toys and games that meet your child’s interests and skill level.
  • Examine toys for sharp edges, broken pieces, loose strings, cords, etc.
  • Avoid toys with small parts for children under 3 (especially small magnets and “button” batteries, which can cause severe problems if swallowed.)
  • Remove tags, strings, and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children. Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches long, because they could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
  • Stay up on any product recalls via the website

Finally, closely monitor young children with any new toy. Even toys that meet safety standards can cause injury in the wrong hands.