By now, the children in your life have probably sent you their holiday toy wish lists. But just as important is the holiday “don’t buy” list.
W.A.T.C.H. released nominees for its “10 Worst Toys of 2017” list in mid-November, leading with Hallmark’s “Ittys Bitty” Baby Stacking Toy. This toy was recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in August. The fabric hats and bows on the Disney characters can detach and cause a young child to choke. This toy also has no safety warnings or age recommendations.
Toy 2: Tolo’s Tug Along Pony. This toy is marketed for children 12 months and older. It has a 19-inch cord, which is permitted for pull-along toys. But W.A.T.C.H. says this toy poses a strangulation hazard and does not carry any safety warnings.
Toy 3: The Wonder Woman Battle-Action Sword. This toy is recommended for children age 6 and up. Before you buy, note that the sword is large and sharp enough to cause facial or impact injuries. The packaging also gets a failing grade. It encourages children to “fight alongside men in a war to end all wars.”
Before you shop, please check out the Worst Toys of 2014 list by W.A.T.C.H. Since last year, there have been at least 17 toy recalls in the U.S. and Canada, accounting for 5 million defective toys, reports the watchdog group which releases its list annually.
Shop carefully, even at familiar and trusted stores. Of course you should avoid the toys listed below. But make your own judgments on the safety of the toys you are considering. The main things to beware of are:
- Marbles and small pieces
- Sharp edges
- Small magnets
- Flimsy toy accessories or pieces which are loosely attached
- Toys with strings (such as musical instruments and necklaces)
- Toys which shoot sharp projectiles
Also, remember to buy toys which are age-appropriate, read the warnings on the toy box and watch out for toy packaging materials. Toys and many products come with an almost-invisible plastic lining on mirrors, digital screens and other pieces. Many also come with a lot of plastic wrap. These are all choking hazards and you should remove them before giving toys to children.
Here are the W.A.T.C.H. nominees for the “10 Worst Toys” of 2014.
1) Air Storm Firetek Bow
This toy is designed for children 8 years and older, but it shoots arrows up to 145 feet high in the air and can cause eye injuries. It has glow pieces and is marketed for day or night use, thought it warns against use in the “complete dark.” Finally, the packaging carries several other warnings, more than most people want when buying a toy. It sells for under $25 at Walmart and Amazon.com.
2) Radio Flyer Ziggle
The seat on this bike is too low, just 8 inches off the ground, W.A.T.C.H. said. The bike’s packaging also features young children who are not wearing bike helmets, which puts them at risk for head injuries. The $39.99 bike is sold at Target, Toys R Us and Amazon.com and is recommended for children ages 3 to 8 years old.
This pencil is also a catapult. The packaging encourages children to enjoy target practice from their desktops and reads, “Because the pencil is mightier than the sword.” There are no safety warnings or age recommendations. This $3.99 toy is sold at Amazon.com, Ebay.com and Learning Express.
4) Alphabet Zoo Rock and Stack Pull Toy
This toy has a 20-inch cord, which is eight inches longer than industry safety standards. It creates a strangulation risk for young children and the manufacturer even warns parents about this risk on the packaging. This toy is sold for $19.99 at Amazon.com, Toys R Us and Magic Beans stores.
5) SWAT Electric Machine Gun
Junxing Toys Industrial Co. warns buyers on the packaging that its toy gun may be mistaken for an actual firearm by law enforcement officers and others. W.A.T.C.H. rightfully says there is “no excuse for outfitting children with realistic toy weapons designed to produce potentially dangerous and unnecessary thrills.” The recent killing of a 12-year old, who was carrying a toy gun mistaken in for a real gun, in Cleveland is a serious reminder of this risk.
6) Wooden Instruments
This toy is designed for children 12 months and older, but includes a 4 ½ inch long drumstick which children can mouth and get lodged in their airway. Additionally, there are no warnings on the toy, which is sold at Walmart.
7) Bottle Rocket Party
This toy makes use of projectiles which can strike and injure a child. There are safety goggles advertised on the packaging, but they are not packed in the box. This toy by Norman & Globus is recommended for children age 8 and older and is sold for $14.99 at Walmart.com, Amazon.com and the Village Toy Shop.
8) Lil’ Cutesies – Best Friends
While advertised as the “perfect friend for your little one,” this toy is dangerous, according to the W.A.T.C.H. report. The decorative bow can detach from the doll’s head and pose a choking hazard. The toy is designed for children age 2 and older. It is sold for $7.99 or less at Kmart, Toysrus.com and Amazon.com.
9) True Legends Orcs Battle Hammer
This hammer is marketed to children as young as 3 years old, yet it comes with a hammer which stretches nearly 2 feet. Do not look for safety warnings and instructions–there are none! It is distributed by Toys R Us and sold at stores for under $15.
10) Colored Hedgehog
The hedgehog’s hair can be easily pulled out, posing a risk for ingestion and aspiration injuries, W.A.T.C.H. says. This infant toy is sold for $10.99 at Toys R Us.
Read the full Worst Toys of 2014 list. Photo credit on this blog: W.A.T.C.H. and the Worst Toys of 2014 report.
Ready or not, the holiday shopping season begins in earnest this week. Enjoy shopping for loved ones, but remember to buy with caution, especially when selecting toys and products used by young children. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled millions of unsafe toys this year, and also many of the most basic children’s products, including car seats, strollers and furniture. Shoppers should closely examine every purchase. Here are a few holiday shopping tips:
Here are some of the important ones to remember:
Graco Recalls. Graco recalled millions of car seats earlier this year because of sticky-buckles which were trapping children in the seats. Just last week, it also recalled 4.7 million defective strollers which can cause finger amputation. Graco recalled the 11 stroller models after 10 fingertip amputations and one finger laceration. The strollers were sold from 2010 until earlier this month at a number of retailers, including Target, Toys R Us, Walmart, Amazon.com and Walmart.com. Read the recall notice.
Furniture Recalls. Common home furniture also caused child injuries this year. In August, Ace Bayou recalled 2.2 million bean bag chairs after two children unzipped them, crawled inside and suffocated to death. Anyone with one of these defective chairs should call the company for a repair kit to disable the zipper.
Another serious recall impacted in Massachusetts. Earlier in the year, Lane furniture renewed its recall of wooden cedar chests after two children in Franklin became trapped in one and suffocated. The children had apparently been playing hide-and-seek and became locked inside. The company first recalled the chests in 1996, but millions of the defective chests are believed to still be in use without the necessary repair.
In the Massachusetts case, the children’s family is believed to have bought the used chest at a second-hand store more than a decade ago. Second-hand sales are challenging to regulate, as are families and friends who pass along used products to each other. This makes it important to know the characteristics of an unsafe product as well as specific products which have been recalled.
Buy age-appropriate. Read the age recommendation on toys and children’s products. Consider a child’s family. If you are buying for a child with younger siblings, buy something which is safe for all ages in the household.
Be careful buying online. After a product is recalled, it is against the law to sell it in stores or online. But some auction and online listing websites do not police private sellers closely. Avoid these sites when holiday shopping for children.
If you purchase through a merchant website such as Amazon.com, make sure you receive the right product and that it has the same age appropriate label and pieces as shown online.
Beware of suffocation and choking hazards. Avoid balloons, marbles and toys with small pieces which children can put in their mouth. Also avoid small magnets. Remember these things come with many toys, but they also come from other gifts and products that enter a home. For instance, the magnet desk sets which were so popular many years ago for adults turned out to be extremely dangerous for children. In some cases with the Buckyball magnet sets (which have been recalled), children found small magnets years after families brought the set into their home in hard-to-reach places, such as under a couch. Our point is: Please consider every gift carefully.
Many of us worry about buying unsafe toys during the holiday season. This concern has merit. In 2011 alone, more than 262,000 toy-related injuries were reported and another 13 children were killed while playing with dangerous toys, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). This year, the CPSC reports toy recalls are down, but toy-related injuries have risen.
What to remember when you shop:
Choose Age-Appropriate Toys. Toys should have labels explaining age recommendations and other important warnings, such as “Flame retardant/Flame resistant.” The CPSC recommends avoiding toys with small pieces for children under age 3. They pose a choking hazard. For older children, avoid playsets with small magnets and balloons.
Buying Toys Online. Read instructions for use carefully. If you are buying from Amazon or eBay, remember those websites are only shopping forums. Take note of which company is selling the product.
Sharp Pieces.Toys designed for children under 8 years of age should not have sharp glass or metal edges.
Shattered Pieces. Set aside any toy that looks like it could easily shatter into small pieces and cause choking, cuts or other serious personal injuries.
Magnets.Toys with small magnets are dangerous to children. When children swallow one or more, the magnets can pull together and cause internal injuries, resulting in vomiting, abdominal pain and infection. In the past few years, children have suffered serious injuries and even death. In response, the CPSC has started a Magnets Information Center.
Loud Noises.Toy guns, tablets and talking dolls can damage a child’s hearing over time if used too closely.
Cords and Strings. Toys with long cords and strings can cause strangulation. Carefully consider this before you buy crib gyms, baby mobiles and swings. If a child can reach a baby mobile, it should be removed.
Batteries. Make sure an adult, not a child oversees battery charging for any toys or electronics. Avoid toys with small button-cell batteries, which can be easily swallowed and cause burning, esophagus pain and vomiting among other symptoms. Also be aware of other appliances, such as remote controls, which use these small batteries.
Sports Equipment. When you buy a sports-related toy, make sure you also buy the safety equipment, such as bike helmets for bikes. Children are required to wear bike helmets in Massachusetts until age 16 and if an accident were to occur, they are an important tool for preventing a lifelong head injury.
Holiday Toy Safety, Consumer Product Safety Commission.