Shopping tips to avoid dangerous toys


Little boy playing with toy cars

Right now, Santa is checking his lists, but don’t leave it all up to him. If you are a parent or give gifts to kids, we encourage you to learn about common toy hazards so that you can sort out the naughty from the nice when it comes to toys. In 2018, injuries related to toys sent an estimated 226,000 kids to hospital emergency rooms, according to data recently issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. While stronger safety standards have significantly reduced the number of dangerous toys for sale over recent years, there are still problem toys that can hurt kids. If you are shopping for children’s holiday gifts, it’s important to be aware of the risks – particularly when shopping online.

The 34th-annual Trouble in Toyland report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund helps identify dangerous products and provides tips for parents and gift-givers. These annual reports have led to more than 150 recalls of unsafe toys, inspired legislation to strengthen toy safety and empowered parents to take key actions to ensure toys are safe. We’re offering  safety tips from the report but encourage you to visit the site at the link above and to download and read the full report. Also, check for toy recalls and follow Safety Alerts issued by the US Consumer Protection Safety Commission

Here are “What to watch for” tips from the Trouble in Toyland Report

  • Toys with sound – If a toy is too loud for you, it could be loud enough to damage your child’s hearing. Turn off the sound, remove the batteries or return the toy.
  • Slime – Some slimes contain high levels of toxic boron. Consider making homemade alternatives without borax, or monitor your children at all times. If your child ingests a slime product, call Poison Control.
  • Fidget spinners and toys marketed to adults – Some products, such as fidget spinners or children’s makeup, are not classified as toys and avoid certain safety standards. These products could contain higher levels of lead, choking risks and other hidden dangers. Avoid these “toys,” or watch your kids closely while they play.
  • Toys with small parts – Toys marketed to ages six and older may contain small parts that are choking hazards for younger children. Parents should check all toys for age guidelines. Before your child plays with a toy for the first time, see if smaller parts fit through a toilet paper roll — indicating they pose a choking hazard. Watch our video to learn how.
  • “Hatching” toys – Toys with break-apart packaging can become choking hazards for small children. Monitor your child while they open the packaging and promptly dispose of the pieces.
  • Balloons – Never let a child under three play with balloons, and monitor any child under 8, as balloons are the number one choking hazard for children.
  • Smart toys – Sites, apps, games and smart toys may be collecting private data from your child and exposing their information to hackers. Consider running these smart toys without connections to the internet, evaluating privacy policies when you first activate them, and monitoring your child’s use. Check out this guide for more info.
  • Makeup – We found asbestos in Claire’s makeup last year. Makeup lacks necessary safety standards, which is why we recommend avoiding these products for children, or at a minimum purchasing alternatives without talc, as it can be a source of asbestos.
  • Toys with small magnets -Swallowed magnets can cause serious internal damage by bunching together. Keep away from young children and monitor older children when they are playing with toys containing magnets.
  • Toy jewelry with toxic metals – Cadmium is a toxic metal that can be used as a substitute for precious metals in inexpensive jewelry, including dress-up jewelry marketed to young children. If your child is under six, watch them carefully to confirm that they don’t swallow a piece of jewelry, chew on the item, or put it in their mouths. Also, consider avoiding cheaper, metallic jewelry that is imported.
  • Recalled toys sold secondhand – Before using an old or pre-owned toy from an online marketplace, garage sale or passed down from a family member, parents should confirm that the product has not been recalled by visiting www.SaferProducts.gov.
  • Toys already in your home, school, or childcare facility – A survey earlier this year by U.S. PIRG Education Fund found 1 in 10 surveyed childcare facilities still using recalled inclined sleepers, despite a heavily publicized recall. The same problem exists in the toy market, potentially to a greater extent, since many recalls receive less attention in the media, regardless of their risk.

2019 Worst Toy Nominees

The World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.)  recently released its 2019 Nominees for the 10 Worst Toys – check out the report for photos and descriptions so you can recognize the toys, some of which would definitely have appeal. The W.A.T.C.H. report also cautions about chopping online, which it has likened to the Wild West when it comes to outlawed toys.

W.A.T.C.H. lists the following safety tips related to toys to watch out for:

  • Toys Marketed On The Internet, with product descriptions that may omit warnings and cautions or provide incomplete or misleading information
  • Battery Operated Toys For Children Under 8 Years Of Age since batteries may leak, overheat and explode.
  • Toys With “Fur” Or “Hair”, including dolls and stuffed animals, that can be ingested and aspirated by oral age children.
  • Toys With Small Removable Attachments at the end of laces and strings (e.g., bells, knobs, etc.).
  • Projectile Toys, including dart guns, sling shots, and pea-shooters which shoot objects and can cause eye injuries or blindness
  • Toys With Pointed Tips, And Blunt Or Sharp Edges that could crush, cut or puncture children’s skin.
  • Toys With Strings Longer Than 6 Inches which could strangle small children.
  • Any Crib Or Playpen Toys which are to be strung across cribs or playpens. This type of toy has resulted in strangulation deaths and injuries.
  • Toys Marketed With Other Product Lines, such as food, clothing, books, cassettes and videos which could have dangerous designs and are often sold with no warnings, instructions or age recommendations.
  • Toys Composed Of Flammable Material which will readily ignite when exposed to heat or flame.
  • Realistic Looking Toy Weapons including guns, dart guns, Ninja weaponry, swords, toy cleavers, knives, and crossbows which promote violence.
  • Toys Which Require Electricity to function and do not have step-down transformers to reduce risk of shock and electrocution.
  • Toys With Small Parts that can be swallowed or aspirated, causing choking.
  • Long Handled Toys For Children Up To 4 Years Of Age due to a tendency of such children to place these toys in their mouths and choke.
  • Toys With Toxic Surfaces Or Components that have the potential to be ingested or cause skin irritations (e.g., some children’s’ play makeup kits have components which contain ferrocyanide, a known poison).

School bus safety tips for kids and for drivers


school bus safety - kids getting on a school bus

Now that we’re in back-to-school season, take the time to teach your children school bus safety. Even if you’ve done it before, good habits can be forgotten over the lazy summer days so be sure to review procedures at the start of every new school year. Consumer Reports offers School Bus Safety Tips for Back to School. They suggest tips for safety while waiting for and getting on the bus, while riding the bus, and exiting the bus. It’s particularly important to give kids safety rules about remaining visible to the bus driver at all times when entering or exiting the bus or crossing in front of our behind the bus.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a helpful back to school safety tip sheet. We’re reprinting the safety tips that deal with traveling to and from school safely.

SCHOOL BUS SAFETY FOR KIDS

  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.
  • Remind your child to wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Make sure your child walks where she can see the bus driver (which means the driver will be able to see her, too).
  • Remind your student to look both ways to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street – traffic does not always stop as required. Practice with your child how to cross the street several times prior to the first day of school.
  • Teach your child to respect all the bus rules, including staying seated and listening to the driver.
  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. (If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school system to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts).
  • Check on the school’s policy regarding food on the bus.  Eating on the bus can present a problem for students with allergy and also lead to infestations of insects and vermin on the vehicles.
  • If your child has a chronic condition that could result in an emergency on the bus, make sure you work with the school nurse or other school health personnel to have a bus emergency plan, if possible, prior to the first day of class.

MOTORISTS, TAKE HEED!

Train yourself to be as alert for school bus lights as you are for traffic lights. Motorists need to a complete stop when lights are flashing. Failure to do so can result in steep fines and points added to your driving record for years to come. In Massachusetts, failure to stop can result in a ticket of up to $250. That fine can go up to $2,000 and a suspended license of up to a year for subsequent offenses. In Florida, the minimum fine is $165, or $265  if you pass on the side where children enter and exit, In Connecticut, failure to stop for a school bus with flashing red warning lights can result in a hefty fine of $465 for a first offense. See state school bus laws for motorists and state motorist fines for school bus violations.

KIDS AS PEDESTRIANS OR BIKERS

If your kids are walking or riding a bike to school, they need to learn how to be safe around vehicles and traffic. Here are more tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics about walking or biking to and from school:

WALKING TO SCHOOL

  • Children are generally ready to start walking to school at 9 to 11 years of age as long as they are at the right developmental skill level and show good judgment.
  • Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision. If the route home requires crossing busier streets than your child can reasonably do safely, have an adult, older friend or sibling escort them home.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them or have another adult walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely. If your child will need to cross a street on the way to school, practice safe street crossing with them before the start of school.
  • Identify other children in the neighborhood with whom your child can walk to school.  In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider organizing a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Bright-colored clothing or a visibility device, like a vest or armband with reflectors, will make your child more visible to drivers.

BIKING

  • Practice the bike route to school before the first day of school to make sure your child can manage it.
  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic and ride in bike lanes if they are present.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright-colored clothing to increase visibility. White or light-colored clothing and reflective gear is especially important after dark.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

 

Drowning prevention tips from parents, for parents (and anyone who cares about kids)


mom and baby swimming

Do you have kids? Or grand-kids? Or nieces and nephews? If so, this post is for you – it has valuable information about keeping those beloved kids safe in and around water. And even if you don’t have kids yourself but you simply frequent pools and beaches in the summer, we encourage you to take note, too. We offer useful tips to keep kids safe from people who know.

First, we point to a popular prior blog post that contains useful information that many people didn’t know: ” We are conditioned by movies and pop culture to think that a drowning person would yell and wave for help and splash violently to get attention. In reality, drowning is a quiet, desperate event – so quiet that every year, children die in pools and water just feet away from parents or friends who do not recognize the signs of distress.”

Drowning doesn’t look like what we see in the movies

We’ve also recently come across a few useful articles featuring Moms who offer great advice about protecting kids from downing. One mother, sadly, gained her expertise the hard way after the drowning death of her toddler. The other Mom gained her expertise in her job investigating drowning deaths as her job.

In A Layered Approach to Preventing Drowning, Nicole Hughes shares her sad experience and the lessons she learned from her 3-year old son Levi’s drowning death:

“Our son drowned when there were six physicians in the room, 12 adults, 17 kids,” said his mother, Nicole Hughes, a writing teacher and literacy coach in Bristol, Tenn., who now works extensively in drowning prevention, including with the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Everything I read about drowning before Levi died, it was like background noise,” Ms. Hughes said. “We think it’s happening to neglectful parents” who don’t watch their children when they’re swimming. But as she learned after Levi’s death, for most toddlers who drown, it doesn’t happen in the context of time spent “swimming” — that is, time they’re known to be in the water. And drowning is the leading cause of preventable deaths in children from 1 to 4.”

In addition to offering great advice for parents to raise awareness, the article also points to a helpful  Drowning Prevention Toolkit from American Academy of Pediatrics.

The second article offers water safety tips for parents from Natalie Livingston, a Mom who investigates drownings in her role as vice president of Oostman Aquatic Safety Consulting. She knows what she is talking about – she “spent 25 years as a lifeguard and worked as the general manager of a water park for 10 years. She trains lifeguards, consults in both private and public operations, and is hired as an expert witness in drowning cases.”

Livingston lists 10 in-depth, practical tips with advice that you might not think about, tips that she applies to her own children. For example, would you think to teach your child how to escape the grip of a struggling, panicked person? Or raise awareness about water depth in practical terms they can understand? Those are among the many lessons she offers.  You can also follow Livingston on Facebook at Aquatic Safety Connection for more tips. Her tips have gone viral online, and she was recently featured on Good Morning America. Take the time to check them out!

In addition to Livingston’s tips, the article offers these additional water safety recommendations:

  • Swim Lessons Save Lives
  • Learn CPR — Drowning patients need oxygen — give air first!
  • USCG approved lifejackets only — no arm floaties or inflatables
  • Designate A Water Watcher / Swim with a Lifeguard
  • Always use pool barriers and layers of protection
  • Enter the water feet first
  • No running
  • Stay hydrated / protect yourself from the sun
  • No drugs / alcohol
  • All water is dangerous — even inches
  • Always swim with a buddy
  • Lost / Missing kids — always check the water first

See related posts on pool safety:
Swimming pool and spa safety issues and insurance coverage

Pool & spa owners: Minimize your risk with simple steps for safety

Dangerous toys: Check these 2018 toy safety reports and tips


young boy with Christmas toys

Don’t let your children’s holiday toy wishlist turn scary this year: every 3 minutes, a child is treated in an emergency room for a toy-related injury. As you compile your holiday shopping list, take some time to check the list online against reviews and product safety reports. And a good place to start are the seasonal safety reports that various consumer safety groups issue.

The Worst Toys for 2018

The World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.)  recently released its 10 Worst Toys for 2018 report. They say that, “… toys like the “Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Superstar Blade” and “Marvel Black Panther Slash Claw,” should not be in the hands of children.” This year’s toy report addresses the types of toy hazards available online and in retail stores so parents know what deadly traps to avoid when buying toys. In addition to their press release linked above, check out the slide show with photos so you can recognize the toys, some of which would have strong “kid appeal.”

W.A.T.C.H. offers the following toy safety tips:

Watch out …

  • for Toys Marketed On The Internet, without warnings, instructions or age recommendations posted on the website.
  • for Battery Operated Toys For Children Under 8 Years Of Age since batteries may leak, overheat and explode.
  • for Toys With “Fur” Or “Hair”, including dolls and stuffed animals, that can be ingested and aspirated by oral age children.
  • for Toys With Small Removable Attachments at the end of laces and strings (e.g., bells, knobs, etc.).
  • for Projectile Toys, including dart guns, sling shots, and pea-shooters which shoot objects and can cause eye injuries and often blindness.
  • for Toys With Pointed Tips, And Blunt Or Sharp Edges that could crush, cut or puncture children’s skin.
  • for Toys With Strings Longer Than 6 Inches which could strangle small children.for Any Crib Or Playpen Toys which are to be strung across cribs or playpens. This type of toy has resulted in strangulation deaths and injuries.
  • for Toys Marketed With Other Product Lines, such as food, clothing, books, cassettes and videos which could have dangerous designs and are often sold with no warnings, instructions or age recommendations.
  • for Toys Composed Of Flammable Material which will readily ignite when exposed to heat or flame.
  • for Realistic Looking Toy Weapons including guns, dart guns, Ninja weaponry, swords, toy cleavers, knives, and crossbows which promote violence.
  • for Toys Which Require Electricity to function and do not have step-down transformers to reduce risk of shock and electrocution.
  • for Toys With Small Parts that can be swallowed or aspirated, causing choking.
  • for Long Handled Toys For Children Up To 4 Years Of Age due to a tendency of such children to place these toys in their mouths and choke.
  • for Toys With Toxic Surfaces Or Components that have the potential to be ingested or cause skin irritations (e.g., some children’s’ play make up kits have components which contain ferrocyanide, a known poison).

CPSC Report for 2018

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission also issued a toy safety report for 2018. It says that asphyxiation or choking are two of the most common injury hazards. It is not just important to buy safe toys, it’s also important to supervise children when they use toys. Here are some of their safety tips issued this year, with a few from past years:

  • Magnets – Children’s magnetic toys are covered by a strong safety standard that prevents magnets from being swallowed. High-powered magnet sets that have small magnets are dangerous and should be kept away from children. Whether marketed for children or adults, building and play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children.
  • Balloons – Children can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons. Keep deflated balloons away from children younger than eight years old. Discard torn balloons immediately.
  • Small balls and other toys with small parts – For children younger than age three, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking.
  • Scooters and other riding toys – Riding toys, skateboards and in-line skates go fast, and falls could be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be worn properly at all times and they should be sized to fit.
  • Check the label: Choose age appropriate toys by reading the age label on the toy. Children younger than 3 should not have access to toys with small parts, which can cause choking. Also avoid marbles and small balls for children under 3.
  • Get safety gear. With scooters and other riding toys, supervision is key along with proper safety gear that includes helmets. Helmets should be worn properly at all times and they should be sized to fit. Avoid riding a scooter on a street or roadway with other motor vehicles.
  • Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings.
  • Battery charging should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any mechanism to prevent overcharging.

See more on toy safety at the CPSC..

 

Don’t let Halloween get *real* scary for your kids


We’re just one sleep away from the scariest, spookiest night of the year – check out our spooky guide for local Halloween happenings. Fake scary is great fun, but you don’t want things to get real scary for your kids. Make sure your activities don’t include a visit the scariest place of all – your local emergency room. On Halloween, for every adult, job #1 is kid safety.

The National Safety Council (NSC) offers this truly frightening statistic:

“Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween than on any other day of the year. In 2017, October ranked No. 2 in motor vehicle deaths by month, with 3,700. July is No. 1, with 3,830 deaths.”

One of the contributing factors may be that so many Halloween activities take place after dark. The NSC shows this pictorial of when accidents occur, created using federal data.

See more on Halloween Safety On and Off the Road, a sheet of tips to protect kids from the NSC.

If your kids are trick or treating at dusk or dark, make sure that their costumes and masks don’t impede vision and don’t have any tripping hazards. Be sure they carry flashlights and it would be a good idea to put reflective tape on dark costumes. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers more Halloween Safety Tips to help you protect children from dangerous costumes and other seasonal hazards.

In addition to traffic safety, pumpkin carving injuries, trips & falls and choking injuries are all among some of the most common Halloween-related injuries that could make for a scary unplanned visit to the emergency room. Check out our roundup of tips on keeping your kids safe from our prior post: Pumpkins, perils & more. And if you have pets, the holiday holds many dangers for them too – check out our Halloween Perils for Pets.

The Children’s Safety Network offers the following Halloween safety infographic: