By Karen Sheehan, MD
My husband grew up observing Hanukkah and I grew up celebrating Christmas. Somehow this led to my daughter embracing both traditions — I am sure at least partially motivated by the hope to get nine days of presents!
So as a mother, one would think my biggest task in the holiday season would be to just make sure my daughter experienced the true meaning of Hanukkah and Christmas (not to mention steering her away from the commercialization and materialism that seem to start earlier and earlier each year). However, at least when she was younger, I had to worry about other things too:
Can you believe it? Is there anything a parent doesn’t have to worry about? (Hypothetical question.) But I do think it is important for parents to be aware that not every toy is safe. As a parent I would expect everything that is being sold for a child’s use has been tested for safety, but as an injury prevention specialist I know that is not necessarily true.
Recently, Illinois PIRG released its Annual Survey of Toy Safety at Lurie Children’s. Some things for parents to consider when buying your child a toy:
- Choose age appropriate toys: Young children like to put things in their mouths, so make sure the toys do not have small parts that can be swallowed or can block a child’s airway.
- Avoid toys with small magnets: Sometimes these magnet toys are made for adults, but kids like to play with them. If they swallow two or more, it can cause severe internal injury because the magnets can stick to each other through loops of bowel.
- Make sure toys that use button batteries are sealed well: Swallowed button batteries can get stuck in the airway or esophagus (the tube between your child’s mouth and stomach). The battery current can cause significant tissue damage.
- Stay away from toxins such as lead, cadmium, and phthalates which can affect a child’s neurodevelopment: Children’s jewelry often contains high lead or cadmium so avoid these products. Also, don’t let your child chew on toys that are metal or plastic.
- Turn it down a notch: Loud noises from toys aren’t good for children’s sensitive ears (not to mention a parent’s sanity) and may contribute to early hearing loss (finally a health reason to lower the volume!).
So whether you celebrate for one day or 12, or something in between, holidays should be a fun and joyous occasion to spend with friends and family — just remember to fill your stockings and packages with toys that are safe and (low) sound.
Dr. Karen Sheehan is a general pediatrician and a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. After taking care of kids who fell from windows, or were shot, or were hit by cars, it occurred to her that it would be better to prevent such injuries in the first place. She now focuses on prevention and maximizing a child’s health and well being.