Every year in the UK many children go to hospital A&E departments after an accident involving a toy. The majority of these accidents happen to toddlers between one and three years old.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust highlights several types of toy linked to higher numbers of accidents and injuries. These include:
- Ride-on toys, cars or rocking horses causing cuts and bruises from falls
- Model cars, planes and trains with small parts involving younger children
- Soft toys losing eyes, buttons and stuffing
- Toy guns, bows and arrows, water pistols, and catapults
In 2015, the dangers of buying fake products was brought into focus with 'hover board' type balance boards catching fire because they did not meet strict UK and European electrical safety standards for their battery and charging systems.
As well as accidents associated with the toys themselves, injuries also happen with them being tripped on and falls if they are left on stairs.
Tox boxes also cause significant numbers of accidents.
Follow these tips for choosing safe and appropriate toys for children:
- Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills, and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards for younger children.
- For infants, toddlers, and all children who still put objects in their mouths, avoid toys with small parts, which could pose a fatal choking hazard. Never give young children small balls or balloons. How small is too small? If a toy or part can fit inside a toilet paper tube, it's too small.
- Look for sturdy construction of soft toys, such as tightly secured eyes, noses, and other potential small parts.
- Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points, especially for children under age eight.
- Avoid toys with strings, straps, or cords longer than seven inches. They could wrap around a child's neck.
- Do not purchase electric toys with heating elements for children under age eight.
- Check toys that make loud noises, which may damage young ears. If it sounds too loud to an adult, it's too loud for a child.
- Look for labels on toys that give age and safety recommendations and use that information as a guide. Check instructions for clarity.
- If you buy bikes, scooters, skateboards, or inline skates, don't forget to include appropriate safety gear, such as helmets and pads.
- Throw away the plastic wrappings on toys as soon as they are opened.
- Follow instructions carefully when assembling toys.
The Child Accident Prevention Trust advises parents that a warning symbol telling you that a toy is not suitable for children under 36 months is important because it means that the toy may contain parts that could choke a very young child. Other safety marks can also help identify safe toys. Toys should conform to the European Standard BS EN 71. If this number is shown anywhere on the toy or the packaging it shows that it has been tested to agreed safety standards.
Trade body, The British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA), has further advice for consumers. It recommends looking out for the Lion Mark, which is a sign that the company is a member of the BTHA, whose members sign up to a strict code of conduct to ensure toys meet current safety legislation.
It is also important to monitor the toys your children play with. Make sure they are not broken or coming apart. Repair or discard damaged toys.