Most moms know well enough to keep poison and sharp objects away from their kids, but the majority of household accidents are actually caused by hazardous toys. Yes, that’s right. The stuffed rabbit with the button eyes can be a choking hazard. The fire truck with a long hose that spurts out real water can strangle or cause electric burns. Here’s a list of safety rules so you can purge your toy box of anything that can inadvertedly hurt your child.
1. Check for loose parts
Do the “wriggle test” on the eyes of stuffed animals, cute décor like buttons or beads, the wheels of cars, or the limbs of robots or animal figures. Don’t just do this when you buy a toy, but at least every week. Kids like to pull, throw, bang and even step on their playthings, and parts can get loose or flimsy under all this abuse. Don’t just examine the “small” things, too. Any part that is big enough to fit through a toilet paper tube is considered a choking hazard.
2. Follow the rule of Seven
Strings, cords and straps should be a maximum of seven inches long. Anything longer than that poses risk for strangulation. (To be safe, check the entire room. Trim the ribbons of crib mattresses, and tie the cords of venetian blinds with twisty tape. Ribbon sashes should be pinned securely, and way out of reach—even if your toddler stands on a chair or a box.
3. Check the paint
Be careful with old toys (inherited or bought at garage sales) that were made before the 1970’s. Until that time, laws against lead paint were not that strict.Don’t give your children any toys that have chipped paint or rush. The paint can flake off, and even if it’s not lead-free, it’s bound to have chemical solvents that can make their way to your children’s hands, and then mouth.
4. Check the battery panels
Electric toys must have a laboratory-tested seal of approval to show that they do not pose any risk for electric burn or shock. This is especially true for toddler toys—they’re intensely curious and mobile enough to check what happens if they give their dancing Elmo a “bath” in the sink.
It’s also better to buy toys that have screw-on battery panels. Curious kids can find a way to slide out the cover and pop out the batteries, which are both choking hazardous and possibly poisonous.
If your toys don’t have screw-on panels, secure the cover with electric tape and check every week. Do this for remote controls, too—kids are often fascinated by the “toys” of Mommy and Daddy.
5. Throw out the packing material
You know how it is—you give your baby an expensive toy, and he prefers playing with the box and the plastic wrap. That’s fine for a few minutes (while you watch nearby) but be sure to throw away all the packing material before you leave your child. Bags and even bubble wrap can be a suffocation hazard.
To be extra safe, cut holes in the bags and the wrap before stuffing into the garbage can. Sweep the floor to remove any loose staples, nails and foam peanuts. If you’re keeping the box (for future storage or craft projects), remove staples first.
6. Check the seams of stuffed toys or cloth rattles
Reinforce weak seams or cut loose threads. This prevents the stuffing (which may include choking hazards like beads or crinkly plastic) from leaking out.
7. When in doubt, throw it out
You may be tempted to “fix” a loose wheel or a wriggly animal head by gluing it on, but this is not safe if your child is three years old or below and more likely to chew or nibble on it. Many plastic glues contain toxic chemicals that are extremely dangerous to ingest. Plus, you don’t know how the repairs will hold up against daily abuse—and the toy could fall apart when you’re not looking.
The editor of Discovery News Journal, and pursuer of relatively interesting information, Simon has a Masters Degree in Creative Writing and Journalism from the University of Wales, and is a photo-journalist and writer whose written and photographic work has been represented by the AFP news agency and appeared in newspapers across Europe and Asia.