Do you often worry about how harmlful your baby’s playthings are? Well, you have reason to. Dr Prashanth Urs, senior consultant neonatologist and paediatrician, Apollo Cradle, talks about toy safety and its implications on your little one
Everyone loves toys. They’re both entertaining and informative. Children above the age of five are able to understand how to play with them, and to make out what can be potentially dangerous. The main worry lies with infants. Between the ages 0 to two, a baby is still trying to focus on people and objects. So parents of infants need to constantly be on their toes, making sure that the toys are kept clean, and that the babies are not nibbling at or swallowing anything dangerous. The most critical factor in child safety is to choose toys on the basis of the child’s age since most of these are made keeping a age-appropriate skills in mind. Here’s our guide to help you make the right choice.
0 to 1 year
In the fi rst few months, your infant will use his primary senses like the eyes and ears to discover the world. Therefore, toys that make noise or are bright and colourful are the ones that appeal most to this age group. In the second half of the fi rst year, infants master motor skills that enable them to play with toys in new and exciting ways. When babies can sit up, they enjoy playthings they can manipulate—bang, drop, stack up, put in and take out, and open and shut.
The toys suggested for this age group include crib gyms, teething toys, interlocking rings or keys, soft dolls, stuffed animals (with short pile fabric) rattles, nesting and stacking toys, simple shape sorters, simple musical instruments and pop up toys.
When it comes to toys for your infant, make sure that:
• the toys are large enough—so that they can’t be swallowed or lodged in the baby’s windpipe.
• you clean toys on a regular basis—weekly or once in two weeks. The best way to do this is with child-friendly soap and water. Followed this up by wiping the toy with a disinfectant. For fabric toys, wash in the laundry with kidfriendly soap and hot water.
• battery-operated toys should have battery cases secured with screws so that kids cannot pry them open.
• all toys are safe for chewing—check labels.
• you avoid dangerous entanglement. Toys should never be hung or attached to a crib, playpen, stroller, infant seat or around a child’s neck with elastic, string or ribbon.
1 to 2 years
In the second year, children turn into explorers. They become extremely curious, and their physical abilities make it easier for them to play and learn. It is at this age that children imitate adults and enjoy toys that help master life skills.
The toys enjoyed by this age group include balls (1-¾ inches and larger), push-pull toys, infant swings, blocks, puzzles with knobs, play vehicles, non-toxic art supplies, playhouse and musical instruments, etc
Take the following safety precautions when picking toys for this age group: Avoid small objects like marbles.
• do not get toys with small parts (such as batteries or loose magnets) that can be swallowed.
• avoid stuffed toys with loosely sewn-on parts that can be easily removed.
• never buy anything with sharp edges.
• always choose toys that are made with lead-free paint.
• scrub with soap and water to effectively remove germs from surfaces. When possible, toys and surfaces should also be disinfected with kid-friendly disinfectants.
• Make sure yoy follow the manufacturer’s directions exactly as printed on the label.
2 to 4 years
Preschoolers have longer attention spans than toddlers. Typically, they talk a lot and ask a lot of questions. They like to experiment with things and with their still-emerging physical skills. They can take turns—and sharing one toy by two or more children is often possible for this age group. Toys enjoyed by this age include puzzles, building blocks, pretend toys, picture books, clay and play dough.
While selecting playthings for your preschooler, ensure:
• that the size is big. Avoid toys that can choke the child.
• that you avoid toys with fur as they can carry a lot of dust and lead to allergies and wheezing.
• electric toys are labelled UL, ie, they meet safety standards set by Underwriters Laboratories.
• throw away broken toys or repair them right away. Make sure that wooden toys have no splinters, and that bikes and outdoor toys are not rusted.
• stuffed toys do not have broken seams or exposed removable parts.
• when you buy clay and play dough, check for harmful chemicals in its list of ingredients.
• Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away immediately.
• wash the toys often, and keep them clean. M&B