It’s true what they say, that it’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. Especially when it comes to children’s toys. After all, lots of potentially dangerous things are fun. And some of these things have led adults and children alike into a whole lot of trouble and, possibly, 911 calls and trips to the emergency room at inopportune times.
While adventure can add spice to life or, at least, make for a great story to tell the grandkids one day, there’s another adage that rings true in this situation: it’s better to be safe than sorry. And safe must come along with toys that are fun and in vogue amongst the youngsters.
Toy regulations may be getting stricter nowadays, but accidents do happen. And we’re not even talking about the occasional crazy toy that ends up on the shelves under the noses of regulatory boards worldwide. Things like Sky Dancers, those lovable fairies that twirl into the air unpredictably, sometimes causing blindness. Or the Creepy Crawlers kit that essentially got kids to melt and mold hot plastic. Or even the Snacktime Cabbage Patch Kid, which ended up snacking on far more than the prepackaged plastic food. Apparently, fingers are tasty.
In this article, however, we’re talking about ordinary, everyday, seemingly-safe toys that landed plenty of kids in the ER each year. Some of these toys are better off avoided, although some of them can be safe with the proper precautions. Here are the top fifteen toys to watch out for.
15 Rocking Horses
Practically every child who knows that a rocking horse is a toy they can ride on has wanted one. To a kid, it just seems like the perfect plaything: ridable, movable and with so much potential for imagination. But as driving cars is only appropriate for kids above a certain age, rocking horses should only be introduced to the little one when she hits three years of age, and even then with close supervision.
This is because the majority of rocking horse accidents are the result of falls. Kids below three may not quite be able to balance themselves properly on the rocking horse. Or, alternatively, might get hurt when they crawl up to the front of the horse while the older sibling is playing knight in shining armor on it. Toddlers also have the habit of trying to stand on them and fall off. The parent must make sure to get the safest, most durable model possible. And keep a watchful eye, ensuring that the little one doesn’t fall over.
14 Ride On Toy Cars
Like rocking horses, those big rideable toy cars and wagons can also make a child prone to accidents. As with the horse, the little one can fall while riding, or when she’s trying to get in or out of it. In addition, the child can bump into things, or even other kids, which can result in an accident and lots of crying.
But toy cars, whether big or small, also tend to have small mechanical parts that may become easily dislodged, especially with long-term use. Curious kids might shove these parts in their mouths, which is pretty much the beginning of any parent’s choking nightmare. The best way to keep the child safe, therefore, is to get toy cars that are sturdy and of good quality. Those with a reputation of parts coming loose are definitely best avoided. Also, make sure that the little one has a restricted safe driving space. Ride on toys are #1 when it comes to the most injuries.
13 Toy Construction Kits
Kids love building things. Whether it’s from building blocks or plastic hammers and nails or train sets, building is just one great pastime that not only kills the time, it also teaches creativity. But parents better make sure that these kits are given at the recommended age. This is because many construction kits require small parts which, again, can pose a choking hazard to kids who are still in the habit of putting stuff in their mouths.
Also, as many parents who have ever stepped on a Lego know, the parts are often hard and can cause a lot of pain. Construction kits that include toy nails, even when they’re rounded and made of plastic, can especially have the potential to cause actual injury. Fortunately, these dangers can be avoided completely by teaching the kids one basic skill: put them all back in the toy box after use. That way, nobody ends up howling in pain after one bad step.
12 Rubber Balls
Big and little balls alike can pose a threat to kids. Kids often ride on large balls which, again, can cause the ever more common injury of falls. Particularly with the big ones that look like yoga balls for kids, it’s easy to lose balance. And while most cases of toppling over don’t result in any permanent injury, falling on the head, in some cases, might warrant a visit to the emergency room.
Small bouncy balls, as with any small toy, are definitely a choking hazard. After all, some are just the right size to fit into a child’s airway, which could mean that if the little one swallows it and it goes the wrong way, she will be unable to breathe. If a kid chokes on one, the parent had better know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver for kids to dislodge it. Otherwise, a call to 911 should be done as soon as possible.
11 Toy Guns
Toy guns of all sorts can be dangerous. Guns with no special features can also contain small parts, and are often hard enough to cause injury when stepped on. In addition, toy guns that shoot out stuff have the potential to cause even more serious harm, even when it’s only water or pellets. Pellets, in particular, can be pretty nasty. Not only can they cause small bruises, they can also end up lodged in body orifices such as the ears, nose and, God forbid, the eyes. Little rubber darts may not look like they can cause a lot of harm, as well, but when they’re traveling at high velocities, they may cause a lot more injury than you’d expect.
One important reason why toy guns can be a hazard is because some of them resemble real ones quite well. Alternatively, they may make the child a bit more comfortable with using guns than necessary. Parents had then better make sure to store all the real guns safely to avoid tragedy.
10 Toy Planes
Toy planes are another common source of injury. After all, they typically also do have small parts that kids can choke on, meaning that parents will have to reserve them as a pleasure for older kids. They are often hard and not exactly comfortable to step on as well. But most toy planes that pose a danger to kids are those flying remote control ones. Sure, they can be tons of fun for the average kid. However, it’s best to teach the little ones to take extra care when maneuvering their planes.
For one thing, kids may not notice that they’re putting the plane in someone’s way, potentially hurting them. For another, some kids think it’s a fine joke to scare the kid next door or, at least, the annoying neighbor with a sudden swoop of the plane. One big danger is if they fly the plane into someone’s eyes, potentially causing blindness.
9 Baby Pools
Baby pools can be plenty fun for the family. Be warned, however, and never leave kids in the pool unattended. Little ones below one year of age in particular, may not be coordinated enough to keep their heads above water. It may seem relatively shallow, but it only takes a baby falling face down into the pool, unable to recover, for them to drown. It only takes about 2 inches of water to drown. Even toddlers may need some supervision around pools. After all, they can still easily slip or trip into the pool and may, in their panic, not be able to bring their heads back up.
Also, something about the water makes kids like to pretend that they’re Olympic divers. As any parent might imagine, it’s not a great idea to dive head-first in the standard plastic pool. It is therefore best to teach the kids water safety, even when it’s only for a kiddie pool in the backyard.
8 Toys With Small Parts
We’ve already mentioned several toys with small parts, but we figured we’d put a section for all the rest of them here. After all, some toys may look innocent. But that adorable teddy bear’s button eyes can be dangerous. It’s important to make a distinction between simply swallowing something and straight-out choking here. When kids put things in their mouths, they can go two ways: either they are swallowed into the digestive tract or get lodged in the airway.
Toys that go down the digestive tract will usually get pooped out eventually. They’re no danger unless they injure the digestive tract, cause a blockage, or are straight-out poisonous. If it lodges in the airway, however, the child can choke. Objects small enough to be swallowed and, at the same time, large enough to block the entire airway are particularly dangerous. Fortunately, most manufacturers label choking hazards on toys, labels which every parent had best take note of.
7 Toy Swords
Many an accident has been recorded from toy knives and swords. For one thing, kids who have seen sword fights on TV will be tempted to play fight with them, something which can have disastrous results. Although not technically swords, what child hasn’t seen a light saber battle from Star Wars. After all, while the blades are blunt, they’re often quite hard. Even a child who swings one with enough force might cause bruising, at least. The worst cases are usually when the pointy end is jabbed with force on the face or on the soft part of the abdomen. The face, after all, has several sensitive spots, with bones that may break easily. The abdomen is unprotected by bone and houses several vital organs. Enough force could cause internal bleeding, although this rarely happens when a young kid is responsible.
As such, toy swords are best for kids who have better fine motor control, so they won’t go swinging them haphazardly. Even so, it’s still best to teach kids necessary precautions so they stay out of trouble.
6 Big, Soft Stuffed Toys
That big stuffed bear may look adorable in the baby’s crib, but that’s exactly where it shouldn’t be. Big toys are fine, of course, for older kids. For infants, not so much. In fact, even pillows and soft mattresses aren’t even allowed. This is because the presence of these objects is associated with a higher risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
This is probably because of the fact that they’re soft. Infants who find themselves face-down on soft surfaces that puff up on their faces might have difficulty breathing. Since those younger than four months old, in particular, do not yet have adequate head control, they may not be able to move their head adequately to keep from suffocating. So it’s probably best to keep these toys on display in the meantime, saving them for playtime when the little one is more than a year old.
5 Stringy Toys
Jump ropes, marionettes, toy necklaces and thread spinners and yoyos. These fun toys have one thing in common: they all have strings. They’re probably mostly safe for older kids. Younger ones, however, may get tangled in them easily. If they get tangled in all the wrong places, these seemingly harmless toys may result in strangulation or, at least, restricted blood flow to the affected part. They’re a danger particularly for babies and toddlers who, once stuck, might struggle, tightening some of the strings and make the problem worse. Necklaces should not be put on babies. They may be just long enough for the baby to get in their mouth and get their jaw stuck, or even break the string and choke on the beads.
This also goes for toys that have electric cords or dangly strings (as in doll hair.) Strangulation hazards such as these are often not labeled as such. They’re often labeled as to recommended age, but no more. Any toy with strings or wires should be suspect, and will need to be carefully monitored by the parent. Yoyos especially should only be handled by children over 10.
4 Toys With Batteries
Kids love toys with batteries. After all, there’s plenty of novelty and extra fun in toys that move around and do things on their own. However, there is one serious danger to them, particularly if the battery is not well-secured inside the toy. Batteries that get dislodged and then find themselves in the hands of a curious toddler might cause a lot of damage.
This is because batteries are not only a choking hazard, they also contain chemicals that can cause serious burns two hours after ingestion. Because of this, many parents think that it’s no big deal, because there aren’t any visible problems at first. In two hours, however, when the chemicals begin to leak, the child may begin to experience serious symptoms. As such, toys with batteries are not recommended for kids below three years of age. It’s also best to tell older kids never to swallow batteries or leave them in places where the baby can get to them, just in case.
What’s a party without balloons? In fact, most kids attending the party will want to bring one home, for the novelty of playing balloon volleyball, or just watching it drift around the house. Be warned, however: balloons are a danger for babies and toddlers. While a blown-up balloon can be a pain to the ears when they pop, it’s the deflated ones that parents have to worry about.
After all, we’ve already established that babies and toddlers love putting things in their mouths. Balloons are the most common cause of children choking. Pieces of popped latex balloons are pliable and colorful and can easily cause choking and full-airway obstruction. When there are small kids in the house, it’s probably best not to keep balloons in the house. After all, busy parents may not notice that they’ve popped or deflated at all. Parents had best stick with colorful hazard-free party decors, which are easy to find and are so vibrant that most kids will never miss balloons anyway. If you must, Mylar balloons are a safer alternative, as they don’t break apart into pieces.
Trampolines can make for hours of weekend enjoyment. However, quite a lot of kids find themselves in the ER because of them. First of all, it’s important to get a trampoline that’s sturdy and won’t fold up or break even with heavy use. Parents will also want to get trampoline nets and padding, which can prevent most accidents. But probably the most important safety precaution when it comes to trampolines is to teach the kids how to land.
Landing wrong, even when it’s on the padding or on the surface of the trampoline itself, can cause broken bones and sprains. In the worst of cases, it can result in injuries of the head or neck, both of which can cause paralysis or death. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics don’t recommend trampolines for home at all. If the parents still want to get one, however, they recommend parental supervision and allowing only one jumper at a time.
1 Kick Scooters
Scooters are really popular with kids. However, as with any vehicle, precautions are necessary to reduce the risk of accident. Scooter users are prone to scrapes and falls, or even bumping into hard objects or pedestrians. In the worst of cases, an unsuspecting scooter user crossing the street may end up getting run over by a speeding vehicle.
Protective gear, including helmets, knee pads and elbow pads, must be worn at all times to make sure that the kid is well-protected, even in the event of an accident. While taking the scooter out during night time isn’t recommended, installing reflectors is a great idea, just in case. Most importantly, however, the child must be taught basic road safety precautions. Needless to say, scooters are best for older children, and must only be brought outdoors when they’re already fairly good at riding it.