Follow Toy Manufacturer's Instructions This Holiday Season

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

December 13, 2005

Parents and caregivers can make sure they are choosing safe toys for their children by paying close attention to warning labels and manufacturer’s guidelines, state officials said today.

“More than 3 billion toys and games are sold in the United States every year, and most of them are very safe. Warning labels and manufacturers’ instructions tell you how to use the product safely,” said Janet Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “If the manufacturer sets a minimum age or other restrictions, follow those guidelines when selecting the toy as a gift.”

In 2003, more than 155,000 children ages 14 and under (including nearly 53,000 ages 4 and under) were treated in emergency rooms nationwide for toy-related injuries.

“By far, the biggest category of toy-related injuries — about 40 percent — involves riding toys, such as scooters, inline skates and skateboards,” Olszewski said. “If you give a riding toy to a child, remember: the gift isn’t complete without a helmet and protective gear.”

Riding toys should not be used near vehicle traffic, stairs, swimming pools, or bodies of water.

Under federal law, new toys cannot contain hazardous substances or pose a danger of electrical shock, burns, or mechanical injury (such as pinched or cut fingers). Any toy with small parts must be labeled as a choking hazard if intended for ages 3 to 6 and is prohibited if intended for children less than 3 years old. Hazardous art materials must be labeled as “inappropriate for use by children.” Realistic-looking toy guns are also subject to labeling requirements.

“If you buy toys secondhand, please visit www.recalls.gov to make sure the toy has not been recalled for safety reasons,” Olszewski said. “If a new toy comes with a product registration card, mail it in right away so the manufacturer can contact you if the item is recalled.”

Safe Kids Michigan also recommends these precautions:

  • Use a small parts tester (available in quantity from the Safe Kids Resource Catalog) or the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper to identify choking hazards. Do not let small children play with anything that can fit into one of these cylinders.
  • Inspect toys often to make sure they are in good repair. Do not let young children play with broken toys or toys with straps, cords or strings longer than seven inches, due to the risk of strangulation.
  • Supervise children playing with any toy that has small parts, moving parts, electrical or battery power, cords, wheels or any other potentially risky component. Simply being in the same place as your child is not necessarily supervising. An actively supervised child is in sight and in reach at all times and is receiving your undivided attention.
  • Teach children to put toys away after playing, to help prevent falls and unsupervised play, and make sure toys intended for younger children are stored separately from those for older children.

Safe Kids Michigan works to prevent accidental childhood injury, the leading killer of children 14 and under. Safe Kids Michigan is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental injury. Safe Kids Michigan was founded in 1995 and is led by the Michigan Department of Community Health.