December 12, 2022

Vanderbilt experts advise keeping safety in mind when buying toys

Keeping safety at the top of the list when purchasing toys, say experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.


by Jessica Pasley

December is the biggest gift-giving month in the world. Did you know it is also Safe Toys and Gifts Month?

Keeping safety at the top of the list is key, said Stacey Pecenka, MPH, manager, Trauma Injury Prevention Program at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“We want to encourage parents and gift givers to choose toys that they can play with their child and not just ones for a child to play with on their own,” said Pecenka. “This is a great way to ensure safe play because the adult will be able to actively interact with the toy too.

“I would encourage people to think about simple gifts for children. Toys for young children need to match their stages of development and emerging abilities,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, trendy gadget. I always encourage experiences over toys.”

According to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) report that highlights unsafe toys and safety precautions about dangers associated with the holidays, about 200,000 toy-related injuries in children ages 15 and younger were treated at emergency departments across the United States in 2021.

Frequently, the injuries were contusions, lacerations or abrasions caused by a toy or its mishandling.

Pecenka said consumers should remember to provide injury prevention accessories when gifting riding toys and the like.

“Think about promoting safety,” said Pecenka. “If it’s a bike, hoverboard, skates, ATV, skateboard … make sure to get a helmet. Don’t assume that the parents will be aware of safety items that go with the toy.

“Also, helmets vary based on the sport, so do a bit of research to make sure you’re getting the correct helmet.”

ATV helmets, for example, provide a cover for the face whereas a bike helmet does not.

Gift givers should be mindful of the following safety tips:

  • Check the label. Follow age guidance and other safety information on packaging. (Age grading is based on safety concerns and on the developmental appropriateness for children.)
  • Avoid toys with small parts, as well as marbles and small balls, for children under age 3.
  • Ensure that stuffed toys have age-appropriate features such as embroidered or secured eyes and noses for younger children and seams that are reinforced to withstand an older child’s play.
  • Be careful with magnets or magnet pieces on a toy. High-powered magnet sets are a safety risk. Children can swallow loose magnets, causing serious intestinal injuries.
  • Battery-operated toys should be closely examined. The law states that battery compartments can only be opened with a tool. If the compartment is accessible without a tool, report the violation to the CPSC.
  • Button batteries are dangerous. A child can swallow a button battery and suffer devastating injuries in as little as two hours.
  • Get safety gear. With scooters and other riding toys, be sure to include helmets. Helmets should always be worn properly, and they should be sized to fit.
  • Know your seller. Purchase toys from retailers you know and trust.

More safety tips are available on the Monroe Carell website at: