Cincinnati Children’s Expert Offers Advice on How to Choose Age Appropriate and Safe Toys for Children During the Holidays

Monday, January 01, 0001

CINCINNATI – With the excitement of the holidays, parents and relatives eagerly purchase the hottest toys and latest items for their children. But it’s during the hustle and bustle of the season that many fail to buy age appropriate gifts for their children and they tend to disregard warnings on these toys and gifts when it comes to ensuring safety.

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center suggests parents consider their child’s age, interests, and skill levels when purchasing toys. While shopping, parents are urged to read product warnings and labels, look for sturdy construction and avoid items with sharp edges and points. Once the gifts are opened, it’s important to quickly discard plastic wrappings and keep older children's toys away from younger siblings.

“Children under five years – and especially those under three years – are particularly vulnerable to airway obstruction due to small upper airways, inexperience with chewing and a natural tendency to put everything in their mouths,” says Michael Gittelman, MD, an emergency medicine physician at Cincinnati Children’s.

Dr. Gittelman added that choking is the one of the leading causes of toy-related death. Most of these deaths are attributed to toy balls and latex balloons.

The Child Safety Protection Act requires choking hazard warning labels on packaging for small toys or toys containing small parts that are intended for use by children ages 3 to 6. The act also bans any toy intended for use by children under age 3 that may pose a choking or ingestion hazard.  Parents are encouraged to read all warning labels carefully before purchasing any item.

A “choke tube” or small parts tester can be purchased to check for choking hazard on small toy.  The “choke tube” is a plastic cylinder object that approximates the size of a child’s airway.  Parents and care givers can also use a toilet paper roll if they don’t have access to a choke tube. If an object fits entirely in the cylinder (without being compressed) it is small enough to be a choking hazard.

“Riding toys (including unpowered scooters) are associated with more injuries than any other toy group. Death may occur when a child is hit by a motor vehicle, or when a child rides the toy into a body of water or down the stairs,” stated Gittelman. “The majority of riding toy-related injuries occurs when children fall from toys."

Dr. Gittelman adds that parents and caregivers also need to be extra cautious about toys that are handed down from friends and relatives that may not have warning labels. He advises that parents and caregivers inspect these toys carefully and use their best judgment. He also suggests that parents be aware of safety hazards associated with toys that have magnets, including ingestion and choking.

Drowning, suffocation, strangulation, and riding toy accidents (such as when a child is hit by a motor vehicle while riding a toy, or when the child rides a toy into a body of water) are other causes of toy-related deaths.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, parents can help prevent toy-related injuries by purchasing age appropriate toys such as the following:

  • Zero to one year-olds explore with their eyes, hands and mouth.
    • Crib gyms
    • Floor activity centers
    • Activity quilts
    • Squeaky toys
    • Soft dolls or stuffed animals
  • One to three year-olds climb, jump, walk, throw and play rough and tumble games.
    • Soft blocks
    • Large blocks
    • Push and pull toys
    • Books
    • Pounding and shaping toys
  • Three to five year-olds like to use their imagination and have toys that are close companions.
    • Nontoxic art supplies
    • Pretend toys (e.g. play money, telephone)
    • Teddy bears or dolls
    • Outdoor toys (e.g. tricycle and a helmet)
  • Five to nine year-olds like to be challenged with complex games that teach specific skills and concepts.
    • Arts and craft kits
    • Puppets
    • Jump ropes
    • Action figures
    • Miniature dolls
  • Nine to 14 year-olds develop lifelong skills, hobbies and enjoy team and individual sports.
    • Handheld electronic games
    • Board games
    • Sports equipment with protective gear
    • Model kits
    • Musical instruments

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is one of America’s top three children’s hospitals for general pediatrics and is highly ranked for its expertise in digestive diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer, neonatal care, heart care and neurosurgery, according to the annual ranking of best children's hospitals by U.S. News & World Report. One of the three largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

For its achievements in transforming healthcare, Cincinnati Children's is one of six U.S. hospitals since 2002 to be awarded the American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize ® for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care. The hospital is a national and international referral center for complex cases, so that children with the most difficult-to-treat diseases and conditions receive the most advanced care leading to better outcomes.

Contact Information

Danielle Lewis, 513-636-9473,