Millions of toys are out there, and hundreds of new ones hit the
stores each year. Toys are supposed to be fun and are an important part
of any child's development. But each year, scores of kids are treated in
hospital emergency departments for toy-related injuries. Choking is a
particular risk for kids ages 3 or younger, because they tend to put
objects in their mouths.
Manufacturers follow certain guidelines and label most new toys for
specific age groups. But perhaps the most important thing a parent can
do is to supervise play.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors
and regulates toys. Any toys made in - or imported into - the United
States after 1995 must comply with CPSC standards.
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when toy-shopping:
- Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
- Stuffed toys should be washable.
- Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.
- Art materials should say nontoxic.
- Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which
means that they've been evaluated by the American Society for Testing
Steer clear of older toys, even hand-me-downs from friends and
family. Those toys might have sentimental value and are certainly
cost-effective, but they may not meet current safety standards and may
be so worn from play that they can break and become hazardous.
And make sure a toy isn't too loud for your child. The noise of some
rattles, squeak toys, and musical or electronic toys can be as loud as a
car horn - even louder if a child holds it directly to the ears - and
can contribute to hearing damage.