Before the fun and excitement of Christmas morning, it’s important for parents to know the hazards that might spoil the big event.
After all, gifts meant to brighten a child’s day could cause serious injury.
“There are so many cool toys and products out there — but they have dangers,” says Bethany Folsom, a health educator for the Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention program at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
An estimated 254,200 toy-related injuries were treated in the nation’s hospital emergency departments in 2015, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Forty-five percent of injuries involved the head or face; one-third of patients were younger than 5.
Families can take simple steps to ensure the special day — and all playtime — is safe.
Folsom, also a coordinator for the Huron Valley chapter of Safe Kids Worldwide, shared tips for smart shopping and injury prevention:
How to prevent toy injuries
Consider choking hazards: Children most likely to choke on small toys are ages 3 and younger — and the risk varies by child.
Notes Folsom: “If it’s small enough to fit in the mouth, it’s a choking hazard.” Buy only age-appropriate toys; consult packaging or a retailer for guidelines.
Banish button batteries: The coin-sized batteries found in toys and remote controls can quickly cause severe chemical burns if swallowed. Call 911 immediately if this occurs.
“Store these batteries out of reach and out of sight,” Folsom says. Duct-tape any battery latches shut, too.
Store toys properly: Toys present a tripping hazard, as any parent who has stepped on a Lego can attest.
But the greater hazard, Folsom says, is a child ingesting small items or game pieces belonging to older kids. “Provide a storage box you can secure and put away,” Folsom says.
Don’t forget the helmets: Santa bringing a new bicycle? Be sure he leaves head protection, too.
Helmets should cover the forehead and be snug enough that two fingers can’t fit under the chin strap when buckled. Encourage helmets when using any wheeled riding toy: “You want to start that good habit,” Folsom says.
Check a host’s home: If you’re celebrating with a relative or family friend, examine their living space for hazards that include pets, firearms, stairs, breakable objects and heavy furniture.
“Not everyone has the same idea of what childproof or babyproof looks like,” Folsom says.
Sign up for recall alerts: “Anything can have malfunctions,” Folsom says. Safe Kids Worldwide offers a monthly email that details all child-related recalls from major federal agencies.
That’s a key resource, she adds, because it also monitors items such as car seats and household products.