Trouble in Toyland: How to make sure toys are safe for your kids


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As you get ready to buy toys for your child’s holiday gifts, you need to watch out for some that could be harmful.

To help you do that, the Public Interest Research Group has published its 34th edition of its report called Trouble in Toyland.

Kids just love toys, but you’ve got to make sure the toy you give your child is both safe and meant for the age of the child you give it to.

“Toys marketed to teens and adults have different safety regulations than those marked to children,” said NC PIRG’s Gabe Fields.

For example, kids three and under like to put things in their mouth which they can then swallow and choke on.

One way to tell if a toy is a choking hazard is to use something every home has—a cardboard toilet paper tube.

If the toy falls through, it’s a choking hazard. If it doesn’t pass through the tube, you’re all right.

Big noise makers are bad for small ears.

One way to tell if a device is too loud is to hold it next to your head. If it hurts your ears, it’s too loud for a child’s ears too.

Watch out for interactive toys which can spy on you and your kids or whose operating systems can be hacked by criminals.

“It’s really important to make sure when you use interactive toys, [that you] use them over secure networks or offline completely,” said NC PIRG’s Kathryn Craig. “Also, be sure to pay attention to the privacy settings.”

In general you should:

  • Make sure the toy is age appropriate
  • Keep toys for older kids out of the hands of younger kids
  • Check security of battery compartments

Many toys use small, button batteries which are shiny and attractive to kids who then put them in their mouths.

Medical experts say over 2,500 kids swallowed button batteries last year requiring emergency treatment.

Dr. Karen Chilton of WakeMed explains button batteries are so dangerous to ingest.

“They have a very corrosive acid so they can burn a hole in the esophagus or stomach and that’s a surgical emergency,” she said.

The Toy Association is an industry group and it takes issue with reports like Trouble in Toyland saying “manufacturers believe toys are well regulated.”

The association also says, “All toys sold in the United States must meet 100 plus rigorous safety tests and standards.”

It also says a recent poll found 96 per cent of parents don’t follow the age label on a toy.

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