When you are in a toy store, buying something for your child, what is your priority? Does the popularity of a toy trump everything?
Based on statistics released by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), safety should be your top concern.
Toys may seem innocent at first, but a lot can go wrong, really fast. The US CPSC states that in the US alone, approximately 217,000 children are treated at hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries every year.
While choking is the most common injury, children coud also suffer burns, broken bones, suffocation, drowning or poisoning.
When initially launched, the fidget spinner was a must-have toy. It had taken over classrooms and homes, as millions around the world rushed to purchase different versions of the toy.
Ismat Mohammad, a Sudanese national based in Al Ain, witnessed this phase first hand. As a father of four children, he was asked to purchase these toys because his children’s classmates all owned one.
He said: “Every week, they would want a new model. In my opinion, it wasn’t just a waste of time. but also dangerous. It has small parts, which a child could try to swallow and choke on. Additionally, when a spinner wouldn’t move smoothly, my children would use grease or oil to make it work. My youngest daughter is seven years old and even she would be trying to remove small parts to see what was wrong!”
In the past, one of his children swallowed batteries and small parts of a toy and had to be rushed to the hospital. Since then, Mohammad is wary of the toys that children play with.
Parents globally seemed to have similar fears and that is when the bans on fidget spinners were introduced. The US CPSC issued a warning, stating that these toys were a choking or fire hazard. Schools in many countries, including the US and UK, banned the spinners on their premises.
According to a report published by Fortune, US-based business magazine, interest in the toy is waning, as sales decrease globally. The online sales of the toy peaked on May 5, before making its descent.
Another toy that is a cause for concern among parents is a doll that has to be fed, her diaper needs to be changed and finally she is put to sleep by the child.
Nasreen Sultana, an Indian homemaker based in Sharjah, has a five-year-old daughter who was quite attached to this doll. She had a small pram for it, used to feed it regularly and even learnt how to change a diaper.
Sultana said: “There were many small parts that would easily come off, including the spoon to feed the doll. Even though I know my daughter doesn’t put toys in her mouth anymore, I did not keep these small parts as I have a three-month-old baby at home, too.”
Sultana believes her older child is mature enough to understand what is dangerous. She has conversations with her daughter about what could go wrong with a certain toy. “If you explain to them properly, they will handle their toys carefully,” she added.
Similar to these dolls, there are small figurines, that are usually embedded within chocolate eggs, available in the markets that are made of small parts. Though these are marked for children above the age of three years, there is still a danger of them trying to put the parts in their mouth.
According to a report published by AFP, a three-year-old French girl died in January, 2016, after choking on one of these toys.
Tania Khurrana, an Indian homemaker based in Dubai, is a mother of two young daughters. In her experience, her younger daughter, who is five years old now, would take these small figurines and put them in her mouth, too. Khurrana would then have to pull them out to ensure she doesn’t accidentally swallow them.
She said: “There are small figurines that can be found in chocolate eggs sold globally. These are so attractive for children, but my younger one has always been the kind to put things in her mouth. Some of the toys have sharp edges, which have given her cuts on her hands as she plays with them.”
In the US, any candy with a toy or “non-nutritive object embedded” inside it was made illegal in 1938, when the US passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. By this accord, these chocolate eggs are banned all over the US.
When younger, a lot of children play a popular game of ‘cops and robbers’. But, there are toys available to assist with this game, such as toy guns and handcuffs.
Philip De Ramos, a Filipino student based in Dubai, has been injured while playing with these toys. While playing with his younger siblings, he is responsible for making sure that they are all safe. But, a bad experience left him concerned.
He said: “The bullets for the gun were made of foam, so they weren’t harmful. But, when it was time to utilise the toy handcuffs, I was stuck. The lock broke and we panicked. I tried breaking off the chain, but to no avail. My brother thought of cutting the cuffs with a scissor, but the possibility of being injured put me off. In the end, I got my parents to remove them, but the incident left my wrists sore.”
This incident proved to be a valuable lesson for the siblings and since then, they have decided to play smart.
Even though De Ramos wasn’t injured by the toy guns they were using, the American Academy of Ophthalmology issued a statement during the holiday season last year to encourage prioritising eye safety when purchasing such toys. A study published in the US-based Journal of American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus shows that children’s eye injuries from toy guns increased by more than 500 per cent between between 2010 and 2012.
Just as these toy guns and handcuffs seem innocent, another very common toy that can be found in almost every home with children is a major culprit. According to a report about toy-related deaths published by the US CPSC, six fatalities that occurred between 2013 and 2014, involving children 12 years of age or younger, were caused by stuffed plush toys.
Bushra Khurshid, a Pakistani homemaker based in Abu Dhabi, highlighted how soft toys are commonly gifted to children, but she refused to keep too many around her now 10-month-old baby.
She said: “When he was younger, he used to sleep with a white teddy bear, which had a plastic nose. So, he would like to put that in his mouth. We were concerned by this, as we worried that it could easily come off and he could choke on it. Additionally, the toy could catch dust, dirt and germs and by putting it in his mouth, he is ingesting them.”