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Playing it Safe: Tips from Dr. J

Toys typically fall into two categories in my mind. Some you look at and inherently know they are dangerous, and then there are others that you just don’t realize are dangerous until the unthinkable happens.

15 Tips to Help Your Children Play Safer

Here are some good tips to keep in mind:

  1. When you get a new toy, check it to make sure it is age appropriate.
  2. Read toy packaging carefully for age recommendations, instructions and warnings.
  3. Make sure your child’s toys are well constructed and inspect them frequently for wear and tear.
  4. Remove anything small that can be easily pulled off or out by children under age 3.
  5. Check for sharp corners, especially for little ones who are unstable and learning to crawl, pull up and walk.
  6. Beware of old hand-me-down toys from family, homemade items, garage sale and flea market finds that could have small or broken parts, toxic materials, lead paint and other hazards.
  7. Check any gadgets for loose wires.
  8. Search new toys for areas where little fingers could get trapped or pinched.
  9. Make sure battery compartments are secured; preferably screwed shut. This is extremely important for anything with button batteries.
  10. They must be completely inaccessible to children! See the sidebar warning below about button batteries, which are also commonly found in watches and remote controls.
  11. Anything that is meant to be shot, slung or swung poses a high risk for eye injuries.
  12. Make sure kids wear protective eye wear if they are using blow guns, sling shots, bow and arrow, Nerf guns, etc. Make sure nearby kids are also protected.
  13. Eye wear is also important if youth are cutting things, woodworking, etc. or if they’re around adults who are using tools.
  14. Keep older kids toys away from younger siblings or visiting children.
  15. Toy chests and other storage bins should have ventilation holes in them and no lid or a lightweight, non-locking lid.

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Tiny Toys

One of the most common things we see with kids in the emergency department is small pieces from toys or games that end up stuck in the ear, nose or throat.  I encourage parents to think about what might happen if a toy is dropped or thrown. If it is likely to break into tiny pieces, it’s not safe for young children.

Until your children are older, store breakable toys up high and out of reach. Only bring these toys out when you are directly involved in your child’s play. As a good rule of thumb, it’s always best to put more complex toys, crafts and games with lots of parts away as soon as your family is finished with them.


About Andrew Jakubowicz, MD

Dr. Jakubowicz (“Dr. J”) is an emergency medicine physician with Wake Emergency Physicians, PA (WEPPA) and the medical director of the WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department. Since 2013, Dr. J has been practicing out of WakeMed Children’s Emergency Department and is board certified in emergency medicine as well as general pediatrics.

Learn more about the emergency services offered to children at WakeMed.

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