During this time of year, many families around the country provide toys and gifts to their loved ones to spread holiday cheer and joy. However, buying the right toy for young children requires thinking about the safety issues. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 200,000 toy-related injuries were treated in emergency departments across the U.S in 2021. To avoid the dangers of holiday toys, Sarah Combs, M.D., recommends that parents look for age-appropriate toys and pay close attention to cautionary labels, such as “not intended for use by children under the age of three.”

Read the labels and warnings

It’s important for parents to make sure that all directions are clear and, when appropriate, they’re clear to younger children. Additionally parents of young children should check toy recall lists and hazardous toys lists. Once that is complete, check all toys for breakage and potential hazards. Broken toys should be repaired or thrown away immediately.

Dr. Combs reminds parents to bear in mind that young children explore the world by picking things up and putting them into their mouths. “In order to avoid accidental ingestions and/or aspirations, keep toys with small component parts – less than 1 ¾ inches in diameter – away from curious toddlers.

Other common type of hazards parents should be mindful about are choking and strangulations hazards (cords and elastic bands), button batteries, loud toys and toxic chemicals.

Beware of balloons

Throughout the holidays, bright and airy balloons are a common decorative feature during many festive events. What most parents likely don’t realize, however, is that uninflated and broken balloons pose a suffocation risk to children under the age of 8 years old.

“The slick rubbery material can get sucked into the airway and trapped there, preventing the child from drawing breath,” Dr. Combs said. “Never allow younger children to attempt to blow up balloons themselves. When a balloon bursts, promptly remove any broken remnant pieces and dispose of them immediately,” she added.

Stuffed toy safety

As children mature, they will be ready to take on new activities. Parents have a responsibility to ensure kids safety when they take on new experiences and provide them with the proper safety information. However, for younger children stuffed toys can often be a safe bet, but there important things parents should be mindful about.

“Stuffed toys are largely innocuous, but do make sure they are well made,” Dr. Combs advises. “Ensure there is no fraying, no loose ribbons and no exposed material. It’s also important for them to be non-flammable and machine washable.”

By taking the extra time to be involved with your children’s toys selection, you can help your kids get the most out of play time which is important to the physical, emotional and intellectual development.

Generally, kids don’t think “safety first” when beginning a new activity or opening a new toy. Parents need to be able to teach their young children about toy safety rules and offer guidance so that toys can continue to be fun and safe.


Sarah CombsSarah Combs, MD, is a pediatric emergency room physician and Director of Outreach in the Division of Emergency Medicine and Trauma Services at Children’s National.

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