The winter holidays are my favorite time of the year, but as a poison center educator I can’t help but think of all gifted toys that can harm children. When people think poison, they often think bleach and although they are correct, they also need to think about foreign objects obstructing a child’s airway or old toys containing lead. Here is some valuable information from the Oregon Poison Center about making sure you are wrapping up safe toys holiday season.
It is not unusual for us at the poison center to get more calls about safe toys around the holiday season. From a poison view, the things that are most concerning with toys are:
- Choking hazards
- Toys that expand
- “Crafty” toys involving powders or mixing small elements
- Magnetic toys
- Toys with disc batteries
Of course, I also have to mention the concern about toys with possible heavy metals such as lead in them. These toys are no longer allowed to be made in the United States, but many toys sold here are made in foreign countries, which do not have the same safety restrictions for children’s products. If you are concerned about a toy’s country of origin, check where the product was manufactured before you give it to your child.
As for safe toy advice, our call center staff suggests that you only buy age-appropriate toys, and don’t forget that direct supervision is essential during play time. Many children share their toys with their older siblings, but this means the smallest ones are also playing with toys that are too “old” for them. Also, keep in mind that these age-appropriate recommendations are just recommendations. True age appropriateness depends on the developmental stage of your own child. I like what one poison center nurse said “If a toy talks or moves, it has a battery in it that should be checked prior to play time.”
I suggest writing the name of the store a toy was purchased from on the box it came in, in case of a poisoning. But let’s face it, many of us want less bulky things to clutter the home, so if you throw away the box, keep any instruction manuals or pamphlets that came with it so you know the name of the product, and its place of manufacture.
When it comes to safe toys, we find that more parents generally have the biggest concerns about things that aren’t poisonous or aren’t really dangerous, like Silica gel packets or glow stick decorations. These products have a very bad reputation, but are actually the least worrisome. We are by no means toy experts, but we deal with a fair amount of calls related to toys. For more information about product recalls and safety issues with children’s toys this holiday season, check out the Safe Kids Worldwide Product Recalls, and of course give us a call if you have any concerns about poisoning in your home.
Happy and safe toys gifting!
Fiorella Carhuaz is a full-time educator for the Oregon Poison Center, a steering committee member for all of the Nation’s Poison Centers, and an auntie to her coworker’s toddler. She holds a degree in Psychology and Community Health Education. When not at work or reading for work, she finds herself drawing bridal dress sketches. Although not a paid gig, she hopes to one day have a bridal shop full of her designs. She is passionate about her work as a public educator, and feels blessed to have a job where she can help prevent children from getting poisoned. You can find more about Fiorella on Twitter @FiorellaCarhuaz.