This year, probably close to half of all gifts will be purchased online. It’s common sense: if you’ve only seen a toy in photos, you — or the parents of the children on the receiving end of a gift sent in the mail — need to take a hard look at the item.
You might be buying second-hand items, maybe toys with themes from decades ago — like Jurassic Park — through Amazon or eBay. Because safety standards have gotten tighter, these older toys need an especially eagle eye. Or a used item might be only slightly damaged, but contain loose parts or open seams spouting stuffing that could end up in your baby’s mouth.
Meanwhile, classic dangers — small parts, strings, poisons, things that shoot out — show up every year in the new designs, reports the Massachusetts nonprofit World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH), which issues a yearly report of potentially dangerous toys that could find their way into your child’s hands.
Between 2010 and 2013, 50 children died in toy-related incidents, the group adds, and in the 12 months before November 2014, there were 16 toy recalls in the United States and Canada.
Don’t count on manufacturers to be sensible. The 2015 WATCH list includes, for example, a dart gun made of foam that looks absolutely real. You don’t want your child scaring people, particularly police, with real-looking guns. In Boston, Mayor Marty Walsh banned this kind of gun in public for good reason. This year’s list also includes a plush puppy “Bud Skipit’s Wheely Cute Pull Along” on big red wheels marketed for babies 6 months and older. Because the hub caps on the wheels were breaking off — and babies might put them in their mouths — some lots were recalled in June. Check the wheels of any toy in a baby’s grasp.
Some other items on the list:
Trampolines. A package insert with one product reads, in part, “Landing on the head or neck can cause serious injury, paralysis, or death, even when landing in the middle of the bed.” Enough said?
Poo-dough. Yes, a product with a mold and three cans of brown “Poo-Dough.” Besides the fact that you don’t want to encourage your child to play with poo, this product contains wheat and could trigger allergic reactions.
The “Splat X Smack Shot” is similar to a sling shot, and comes with ammunition that can travel up to 100 feet. You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.
A rigid plastic board that looks like a skateboard, but without wheels. Your child could try to ride it down a hill and land on his head.
A rigid plastic sword named for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles character, Leonardo. If your boy bangs it over his kid sister’s head, no one will be happy.
A multi-colored set of plastic “medical devices” for kids to play doctor, intended for children ages 2 and up. Do you really want your toddlers putting a plastic “tongue depressor” into each other’s mouths?
A “Pull Along Zebra,” with a cord about 21-inches long. Babies and toddlers could strangle themselves with it.
Hasbro recommends Jurassic World Velociraptor Claws for children as young as 4. Younger kids could be exposed to loose parts that could cause choking. Oh, and children using the claws as weapons — the purpose of claws — could easily get them in a sibling’s eyes
This list doesn’t exhaust all the dangerous toys on the market, note the authors, Joan Siff and James Swartz — it’s a guide to the kinds of dangers you might see. The two attorneys have been presenting a “10 Worst Toys” list since 1991; many of the toys they zeroed in on were recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) or pulled off the shelves by manufacturers.
If you’re not sure if your child is old enough for a toy (or younger siblings could grab it), be cautious. The CPSC offers detailed recommendations of toys appropriate for small children and for kids ages 6 through 12.
Toys with “fur” or “hair” or small removable items like bells or knobs still show up on items for kids young enough to put random objects in their mouths. Anything that fits through a toilet-paper tube is a choking hazard. Uninflated balloons or balloon pieces are also a problem. So are small magnets.
Watch out for toys with pointed tips or sharp edges that can puncture skin, or items with strings longer than 6 inches that could strangle a baby. For the same reason, don’t run strings across cribs or playpens!
Parents still need to be on guard for, among other risks, battery-operated toys for kids under the age of 8, since the batteries could leak or explode.
For older kids: Consumer Reports argues that high-powered magnets in magnet sets should be banned. The CPSC recommends keeping them away from children younger than 14.
So what should you buy? Consumer Reports recommends some classics that still win hearts: Lionel trains, Flexible Flyer sleds, Lincoln Logs, the Mouse Trap board game, Mr. Potato Head, the Slinky, the Spirograph, and Easy Bake Oven. Ralphie’s Red Ryder BB gun didn’t make the list.
You could also get tickets to a “Dangerous Toys” concert for a teenager — or her Mom.
November 30, 2015
Janet O’Dell, RN