November 16, 2017

Shopping for children’s gifts? Make sure toys are safe and age-appropriate

Bike helmets and quality construction: yes. BB guns and hoverboards: no.

With the holiday shopping season upon us, Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt offers critical safety tips to those buying gifts for children.

In 2016, there were 76 toy recalls, and a 2015 report released by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows an estimated 254,200 toy-related injuries and 12 deaths that year.

Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program manager at Children’s Hospital, wants to remind gift-givers the importance of keeping the child’s age in mind while shopping for toys this holiday season.

“When shopping for children, it’s important to do your research on the safest toy options,” Unni said. “All toys should have an age recommendation on the packaging, and it’s important to read labels carefully, especially for children under age 3.”

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt’s Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program offers the following recommendations:

 Are you buying new toys? Make sure they are age-appropriate.

Check to make sure there aren’t any small parts or other potential choking hazards. Products are given age recommendations for safety reasons, so stick to the suggested ages and keep in mind each child develops at his or her own pace. Also:

  • Look for quality construction.
  • Check toys regularly for broken parts, chipped paint or sharp edges.
  • Make sure all crayons, markers or other art supplies are labeled non-toxic.
  • Avoid marbles and balls with a diameter of less than 1.75 inches.
  • Avoid toys with cords or strings longer than 7 inches.
  • Purchase Mylar balloons instead of latex, and never allow children to inflate or deflate balloons.

Are you buying a new bike? Don’t forget the helmet.

Ride-on toys often result in the highest number of toy-related injuries. Bikes, scooters, skateboards and other riding toys should always be accompanied by helmets, and young riders should be supervised by adults.

Are you buying new electronics? Keep an eye on button batteries.

Each year in the U.S., more than 2,800 children are treated in emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries — that’s one child every three hours. Keep lithium battery-controlled devices – remote controls, calculators, watches, key fobs, flameless candles, musical greeting cards, flashing holiday jewelry or decorations – out of sight and reach of children.

Are you buying a new TV? Don’t forget the wall mount.

It is crucial to properly secure televisions to prevent tipping. Mounting your TV is also a safe solution. Every three weeks a child dies from injuries caused by a tipped-over television. Over the past 10 years, a child visited the emergency room every 45 minutes due to this type of injury.

Additional items to avoid this shopping season:


Hoverboards were a popular gift item in recent years, despite warnings by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which recalled more than 500,000 or them. The CPSC, along with eight manufacturers and two retailers, agreed to recall the hoverboards due to fire hazards posed by the devices’ lithium-ion battery packs. According to the CPSC recall notice, the lithium-ion battery packs in the self-balancing boards could overheat, start to smoke, catch fire or lead to an explosion.

Avoid building sets with small magnets for children under 6. If swallowed, serious injuries or death could occur.

Projectile Toys
Projectile toys such as air rockets, darts and slingshots aren’t recommended for any age, but if they are purchased, they should be for older children.

Chargers and Adapters
Charging batteries should always be supervised by adults. Battery chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to children.

BB guns
BB guns should not be considered toys. Children require proper training and supervision while using a BB gun.

More safety tips are available on Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt’s Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program website.

(photo: iStock)