This holiday, Floridians are focused on checking off their holiday shopping lists. At the top of many shopping lists are toys. Unfortunately, some toys can present safety risks for children if certain precautions are not taken. In 2010, there were an estimated 181,500 toy-related injuries, including 17 fatalities. Therefore, in an effort to help consumers make informed decisions when purchasing toys this holiday season, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers the following tips to ensure you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season.
Read the Labels
Toy manufacturers are required to meet stringent safety standards and label certain toys that could be hazardous for younger children. Labels on toys that state "not recommended for children under three ... contains small parts," may pose a choking hazard to children under three. Remember just because a child enjoys a toy, doesn't mean it's safe for them to play with. Age labels should be used for safety purposes, not just as a gauge for mental development.
Examine the Merchandise
Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly secured eyes, nose and other small parts and well-sewn seams, on stuffed animals and cloth dolls. Be sure that items can't be pulled off or easily broken. Avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might break into small pieces or leave jagged edges.
Check for Recalls
Numerous toys are recalled every year and many parents are unaware. The only way to protect your children from these hidden hazards is to stay informed. Toy and other child-related product recalls can be found by visiting the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at www.saferproducts.gov or by calling CPSC's toll-free Hotline at 1-800-638-2772. Report defective toys that have or could result in an illness, injury or death, at www.saferproducts.gov. As long as the report meets the minimum required information, it will be made available for others to view on the website, and will be submitted to the manufacturer for product evaluation.
Beware of Choking and Strangulation Hazards
Choking on balloons and small balls accounts for more than half of toy-related fatalities. When shopping for infants and toddlers, avoid toys with small parts that could pose a choking hazard. Rattles, balls, blocks and other small parts should be at least 1.75 inches in diameter (the size of a golf ball). Strings and ribbons on toys should be no longer than six inches to prevent accidental strangulation. Keep deflated or broken balloons away from children younger than eight years old, as children can choke or suffocate.
Keep Play Areas Neat
Teach children to put their toys safely away on shelves or in a toy chest after playing to prevent trips and falls. Toys intended for younger children should be stored separately from those suitable for older children. Use a toy chest that has a lid that will stay open in any position when raised and will not fall unexpectedly on a child. For extra safety, be sure there are ventilation holes for fresh air. Finally, store outdoor toys after use, as rain or moist conditions can rust, mildew or damage a variety of toys and toy parts creating potential health hazards.
- Discard plastic wrappings on toys immediately to ensure the packaging does not pose a hazard.
- Do not allow riding toys near stairs, traffic or swimming pools. Scooters, skateboards and other riding toys can reach top speeds and falls could even be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn at all times and they should be sized to fit.
- For children under age six, avoid building or play sets with small magnets. If magnets or pieces with magnets are swallowed, serious injuries and/or death can occur.
- Charging batteries should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Small batteries pose a choking hazard and can also cause serious internal injuries.
- Make sure bookcases or tall dressers are attached to a wall with a bracket. If left unsecured, furniture can become top-heavy and fall on an unsuspecting child, resulting in serious injury.
Remember…we're here to help!
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services functions as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's agent in Florida regarding product recalls, inspections and investigations. For additional information or to file a complaint, visit our website or call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) within Florida, 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352-9832) en Español or (850) 410-3800 from outside of Florida.