AUGUSTA, Ga. – Christmas is a magical season for children. Visions long ago may have included sugarplums. Today’s children are likely dreaming of toys, toys and more toys.
“Childhood is one of the most important and exciting times of life. This is when young minds and bodies learn to move and interact and explore the world,” said Dr. Natalie Lane, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. “As parents and caregivers, we should do everything we can to provide an engaging and safe environment for kids to develop through play.”
About 252,000 children were treated in emergency rooms last year for toy-related injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and 70 percent of those hurt were age 12 and younger.
“That’s a large number of potentially avoidable injuries,” Lane said. “Children should be enjoying their time with toys, not be placed in jeopardy.”
For the children on your Christmas list, Lane said that you can help reduce their risk for injury by following these basic guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics:
1. Choose age-appropriate toys. Select toys to suit the child’s age, abilities, skills and interest level. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards for younger children. Most toys include age appropriate guidelines, so use them, said Lane.
2. Read instructions carefully. Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy received as a gift, read the instructions carefully.
3. Protect their heads. If children have their hearts set on a new bike, skateboard, scooter or other riding equipment, be sure to include a helmet to keep them safe while they’re having fun. Those added safety devices can be great gifts from grandparents or other family members.
4. Avoid burn and shock hazards. To prevent the possibility of both burns and electrical shocks, choose battery-operated toys for children under the age of 10 years. Children this young should not be plugging things into an electrical outlet.
5. Beware of choking and strangulation hazards. Children under the age of 8 years are at risk of choking on small parts contained in toys or games. They can also choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Tags, strings and ribbons can pose the risk of strangulation. Be sure to remove them from toys before giving them to young children. Also avoid pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches long.
6. Be careful with button batteries and powerful magnets. Children can have serious stomach and intestinal problems – including death – after swallowing button batteries or magnets. In addition to toys, button batteries are often found in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids, and other small electronics. Small, powerful magnets are present in many homes as part of building toy sets. Keep button batteries and magnets away from young children, and seek emergency medical help immediately if your child swallows one.
7. Supervise play. You should always supervise your children at play. Minimize your distractions and take part in some of their fun.
8. Store toys properly. Parents and caregivers should store toys in a designated location, such as on a shelf or in a toy box, and keep older children’s toys out of reach of young children. To prevent potential entrapment, use a toy box with no lid or a lightweight, non-locking lid and ventilation holes.
“So whether your children are working on a puzzle (remember those things?), or riding a bike, recognize the potential risk. Play smart!” Lane said.
The 154-bed not-for-profit CHOG is the second-largest children’s hospital in the state, providing the highest level of pediatric critical care and neonatal intensive care, as well as a wide range of general and complex health care for children. CHOG was recently ranked as the nation’s top performing hospital in pediatric quality and safety by the University HealthSystem Consortium of academic medical centers.