Children's Connection

Unwrap the Gift of Toy Safety

Dr. Karen Kern

The holidays are exciting times that are often filled with numerous gifts for the children in your life. While gift giving and receiving can be a fun holiday tradition, lack of toy safety often results in injury for some children. The biggest threat to the health of children older than 1 year is not disease. It's accidental injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year thousands of children suffer injuries from toys severe enough to be treated in a hospital emergency room.

“Your challenge is to find toys that your children will enjoy and that you know are safe,” say Dr. Karen Kern.

Dr. Kern’s Guidelines for Toy Safety this Holiday Season

  • Avoid toys that shoot or have parts that fly off.
  • Choose toys made of durable materials with no sharp edges or points.
  • Don't give young children toys with small parts. Youngsters tend to put things in their mouths. This increases the risk of choking.
  • Choose age-appropriate toys. Age labeling is provided for developmental and safety reasons.
  • Select toys to suit a child's abilities, skill, and interest level.
  • To avoid serious ear injury, don't buy toys that make loud or shrill noise.
  • Choose well-made stuffed animals. The eyes, noses, and other small parts should be fastened securely.
  • Never buy hobby kits, like chemistry sets, for children younger than age 12.
  • Look for the letters ASTM. These indicate that a toy or product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Dr. Kern’s Tips to Avoid Playtime Mishaps

  • Explain and demonstrate how to use toys.
  • Keep toys for older children away from younger ones.
  • Throw away packaging immediately. Sharp staples and plastic bags can cause injuries and are safety hazards.
  • Make sure children play in safe areas and, if appropriate, under supervision.
  • Make a list of safety rules and share them with your children. If your youngsters are playing with friends, remind everyone of your safety rules.
  • Inspect older toys for broken or sharp edges, loose parts, and loose strings or ribbons.

About Dr. Kern
Dr. Karen Kern is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital After Hours Clinic. She earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine in Shreveport and completed residency at LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Dr. Karen Kern is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. She continues to practice medicine because “I enjoy making children and their families feel better. Sometimes that may mean prescribing a medication, but often times it only takes simple reassurance that the parent is doing everything they can to help his or her child feel more comfortable during an acute illness. I like to show kids that a visit to the doctor does not necessarily have to be scary or involve painful procedures.”