Are you getting ready to celebrate Christmas and the holidays with friends and family? In the spirit of spreading good cheer, you are likely planning to give toys for the kids in your gift list. Bring on the smiles and excitement. Give toys that are fun and cause no harm to kids or the environment. Consider environmentally-friendly toys this Christmas.
Why toy safety is important
Toys engage kids in fun and stimulating ways. Yet each year, hundreds of kids suffer toy-related injuries. As estimated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPS), 251,700 kids in the U.S. received emergency hospital treatment for toy-related injuries in 2017. Of this 69% (174,300) concerned children less than 12 years. The most affected area accounting to 44% of cases was to head and face. Greater awareness about toy safety can prevent such injuries.
Manufacturers have to meet strict standards relating to kids’ toys. Despite such measures, toys do cause injury or health issues at times. Be vigilant about materials used in toys especially for children under three years who tend to suck or put things in their mouths.
Plastics with numbers 1 (polyethylene), 2 (high density polyethylene), 4 (low density polyethylene) are considered relatively safe. Check that toy materials are free of Bisphenol A and phthalates DEHP, DINP, DBP, BBP, DNOP and DIDP which pose health risks. Likewise, exposure from toys treated with paints that contain lead, or substances that include formaldehyde, cadmium, chromium, and mercury are harmful to young kids. Toys that contain magnets or use batteries also pose risks.
There is a further danger that affects the health of everyone when toys are disposed of. Plastic toys that end up in landfill leach gases and substances that are toxic and cause health issues for everyone. To prevent such harm, choose toys that are safe for both kids and the environment.
Practice toy safety
Ensure toys you buy are safe by reading product details printed on the package. Check that any paints, crayons or other play material meet the standard (ASTM F963) recognized by the USCPC. Safeproducts.gov gives details of recalls of unsafe toys.
You can also set up safe practices for toy use at home. Encourage kids to put away their toys after use to avoid slips and falls. Remind them to bring in bikes, skateboards, and other outside toys to prevent rusting. Get rid of broken toys. Make sure kids know how to use toys and are mindful of their surroundings, especially when outdoors. Supervise kids when at play.
Toy Buying Tips
To bring awareness about toy safety, Prevent Blindness, an organization whose mission is to “prevent blindness and preserve sight” has declared December as “Safe Toys and Gifts Month”. It offers these guidelines when shopping for children’s toys and to prevent accidents. Here are tips this organization recommends for safe toy buying:
- Read all warnings and instructions on the box.
- Ask yourself if the toy is right for your child’s ability and age.
- Avoid purchasing toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges.
- Check the lenses and frames of children’s sunglasses; many can break and cause injuries.
- Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
- Look for the letters “ASTM.” This designation means the product meets the national safety standards set by ASTM International.
- Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off. Remember that BB guns are NOT toys.
Another way to keep your kids safe is to gift them environmentally-friendly toys. Opt for toys made with FSC certified wood, recycled materials, or naturally derived and pesticide-free materials such as organic cotton, wool, and bamboo. Reduce your environmental footprint and promote skills by buying from local artisans and retailers. Give a thought also to the mounds of wrapping materials discarded during the festive season. Choose minimal wrapping that can be reused or recycled.
Select toys with care
Kids of all ages revel in toys. While a mobile fascinates an infant, a toddler enjoys playing with a set of colorful blocks and push or pull-toys. Toys that rattle, squeak, ring, and bang are also fun as long as their sounds are not too loud to cause harm.
Kids learn many skills when playing with toys. They learn to match colors, coordinate eyes and hands and understand spatial relationships. When choosing toys, get those that have creative and multiple uses. For instance, kids love arranging blocks in different ways or using colorful silk shawls as capes, costumes, rugs and other imaginative ways. Older kids revel in toys that involve problem-solving, exploring, or imaginative playing. Think board games, puzzles, and science kits.
Mobile toys such as bicycles and scooters give kids the chance to enjoy the outdoors and to become independent. When giving such gifts, include correct sized helmets and guards to protect them at play.
Thoughts on buying toys and gifts
Consider this. Most kids have lots of toys already. Why not adopt a minimalist mindset when shopping for gifts? This will help to contain your spending while imparting valuable lessons to kids in the prevailing consumerist culture. Here are ways to get you started.
- Quality is better than quantity. One good toy is better than many.
- Give kids toys that match their interests and provide hours of quiet enjoyment.
- Use materials on hand to make unique toys such as rag dolls or sewing kits. Remember how kids love playing with cardboard boxes, cups, and clothes for endless hours of imaginative play.
- Buy from vendors you trust. Good toys can be passed on for use by siblings or other kids.
- Plan free and fun outings to enjoy time with your kids. Play with kids in the park, go for a nature walk, or have a picnic.
- Get kids involved in a community event where they can give of their time and talents while having fun.
Christmas and the holiday season are for giving, sharing, and having good times. Think about environmental safety as you shop for toys and gifts for kids. Choose toys with care so kids enjoy many hours of engaged play. Foster good cheer with thoughtful gifts and activities in keeping with the spirit of Christmas.