Toys can be educational, great for keeping our kids busy, or just plain fun to play with. But not all toys are safe to use, especially for the very young. Dr. Victoria Ang, a developmental pediatrician at Cardinal Santos Medical Center, cautions parents against letting their child spend time with the following:
1. Television, tablets, and cellular phones “Just this month (November 2016), the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines on media use in young children. For kids younger than 18 months, the AAP discourages the use of screen media other than video-chatting,” Dr. Ang says. Once children reach 18 to 24 months, then parents may choose high-quality television programs or apps, but usage must still be supervised. “Don't let young children use media by themselves,” she cautions. “For children older than 2 years, limit media to 1 hour or less of high quality programs or apps per day. There should also be no screen use during meals, and for 1 hour before bedtime. Studies have shown that children who have excessive media use in early childhood are more likely to have delays in their development or behavior problems,” she adds.
2. Very small toys such as marbles, toys with loose, small parts “Toddlers love to put things in their mouth, and there's a danger that the child can swallow or choke on a toy if it's too small,” Dr. Ang says. How can you tell if the toy is too small? “As a rule of thumb, use the cardboard tube found in the middle of a roll of toilet paper as gauge. If a toy is small enough to fit in it, it's too small to give to a toddler,” she advises. In addition, check also that stuffed toys don't have loose parts like eyes or buttons that can be swallowed. Other potentially dangerous toys are those with sharp edges, strings that are longer than 7 inches, or those with batteries that are not in securely closed compartments.
3. Toys that are easily broken “Remember that younger toddlers already know cause and effect. They love to test what they have learned by doing things such as dropping toys or banging them. This is part of their development, and they are not being deliberately naughty. So don't give a toddler any toy that is fragile -- you may end up getting frustrated if he breaks it within minutes -- or worse, get injured by broken toy parts,” says Dr. Ang.
4. Walkers “Baby walkers don't help infants or toddlers learn how to walk,” stresses Dr. Ang. “What's worse is that many children have been injured while using walkers. Even if a parent or another adult is watching, a toddler in a walker can move so fast that the adult won't be able to catch up to prevent an accident. If your child has already learned to walk, give him a push toy instead of a walker. This is safer and will better help her motor development,” Dr. Ang advises.
5. Trampolines “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you shouldn't have a trampoline at home. They also discourage trampolines in kids' gyms or in playgrounds. Trampolines should be used only in training programs supervised by professionals. Children under 6 years of age are at a particularly greater risk for being seriously injured when jumping on a trampoline. There are many other safer ways of letting your child get some exercise, and playing on the ground is just as much fun!” Dr. Ang points out.
6. Toys that could have toxic substances, such as lead-based paint As a final note, Dr. Ang advises parents to check the toy’s packaging when they make a purchase. “That is where you will see if the manufacturer underwent safety testing, met strict child safety standards, and if the toy is made with kid-friendly materials.”