Home safety: Play time
Toy safety at any age
All kids love to receive toys, but how do we know which ones are safe? How do we use toys safely? Recent high-profile recalls can be confusing.
Not surprisingly, the majority of Canadians believe that if a toy is available on the market, it is safe. While the public may reasonably assume it has been tested or inspected and is considered safe, this is not necessarily the case. Not all products are tested before they are stocked on store shelves. Injuries to children from the use of products and toys continue to happen and they can be serious and sometimes fatal. So, what can you do to help keep children safe?
Tips when choosing and using toys
Examine all toys. Ensure that toys have no small parts that can be pulled off and swallowed by young children.
Choose age-appropriate toys. Pay attention to the age recommendations on toys. Any toy with a label indicating use for children over the age of three should be taken as a safety warning.
- For children younger than three years, do not choose toys with small parts. Young children like to explore the world, often by putting things in their mouths. This can lead to choking on smaller parts. Toys meant for older children may have small parts that a young child can choke on. To check if a toy or a toy part is a choking hazard, put it through a cardboard toilet paper roll (diameter three centimetres or 1¼ inches). Anything that fits inside the tube is a choking hazard for children under three years old.
- Keep toys with small magnets away from children under six. If these small magnets become loose, they can be swallowed. If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can cause serious illness.
- Make sure battery-operated toys are in good condition. Ensure that the batteries are locked inside toys and that your child can't easily access them. If chewed or swallowed, button-type batteries can cause internal chemical burns or poisoning.
- For infants and toddlers, avoid toys with long strings or cords that could get caught around a child's neck.
- Toys that are strung across a crib or playpen (like a mobile) are attractive to a small baby, but can get caught around a baby's neck.
- Remove all crib toys strung across the crib as soon as the baby starts to push up on hands or knees or is five months old (whichever comes first).
- Do not put plush or stuffed toys in an infant's crib, as they can pose a suffocation hazard.
- Do not let children chew on metal jewelry. Some jewelry contains high levels of lead, which can cause children to become seriously ill.
Supervise your children when they are playing with balloons. A piece of latex balloon can easily block a child's airways and stop a child from breathing. Make sure to throw away broken balloon pieces immediately. Mylar (foil) balloons are a safer option. When these balloons break into small pieces, they do not block a child's airway.
Check for product recalls. Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety website lists products, including toys, which have been recalled by the manufacturer due to concerns with safety. Visit their web site or call 1-866-662-0666. You can also call this number if you are out shopping and see a product you think is a concern or is banned, like yo-yo balls or baby walkers. For more information on lead poisoning, visit AboutKidsHealth.ca.
Keep small magnets away from children. Small magnets found in toys, jewelry or on the fridge can be very dangerous to children. If a magnet becomes loose, it can be swallowed by a child. If more than one magnet is swallowed, they can attract one another increasing the risk of serious injury.
Here's how to help reduce the risk to your child:
Keep magnets out of reach. Keep products with small magnets out of the reach of young children. Also, look for any small magnets that may have been separated from toys and other products. Immediately remove the magnets from the reach of young children. Seek immediate medical care for any child who has swallowed, or is suspected of having swallowed, one or more magnets.
For more information on the hazards of small magnets, visit Health Canada, Consumer Product Safety or call 1 866-662-0666.
Drowning is the second leading cause of death for Canadian children and it happens quick and silently. It often occurs when a child just slips under the water. A young child can drown in as little as 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) of water in just seconds.
Children from age one to four are particularly at risk of drowning in backyard pools, because of their natural attraction to water; however, children of all ages drown in backyard pools every year.
Here's how to help reduce the risk to your child:
Stay within sight and reach of your child when in, on or around the pool. Forty-two per cent of all children who drowned in the past 10 years, did not have an adult watching them. Adults should stand within arm's reach of any child under five or any older child who does not swim well, when they are in water or playing near the water.
Install a 1.2-metre (four-feet) high, four-sided fence with a self-closing, self-latching gate around your home pool. Installing a 1.2- metre high, four-sided fence with a self-closing gate helps prevent children from reaching the pool. Not having a fence allows children dangerous access to the pool. Proper fencing, using vertical bars instead of horizontal or chainmesh bars, could prevent seven out of 10 drowning incidents in private swimming pools for children under age five.
For more detailed information, see the drowning prevention section of our website.
Baby walkers are banned in Canada. Baby walkers have caused more injuries to young children than any other nursery product. In Canada, approximately 500 babies were injured every year while using a walker – nearly three walker injuries every day. Parents who own a baby walker should stop using it. Before disposing of the baby walker, cut the seat and remove the wheels.
Baby walkers are dangerous. Walkers are dangerous because they allow a child to reach higher and move faster than the child could on their own.
Baby walkers are banned. The ban applies to the sale of both new and second-hand baby walkers sold through flea markets, garage sales or thrift stores. Modified baby walkers with the wheels removed are also banned. For more information on the hazards of baby walkers visit Health Canada - Consumer Product Safety or call 1-866-662-0666.
Stationary activity centres
Stationary activity centres allow babies to bounce up and down and rotate in the seat. This product lets children stand upright. This may mean they can then reach potentially dangerous items.
Here are some safety tips on how to use stationary activity centres:
Supervise your child at all times. Your baby should never be left alone while they are in the activity centre.
Keep away from dangerous items. The stationary activity centre needs to be far away from stairs, doors, windows, coffee tables, fireplaces, blind cords and all other items that are dangerous. Your child can grab or fall onto these items. This has caused serious injuries. Make sure the toys on the activity centre are not broken or loose. Sharp points can cut. Small pieces can be swallowed.
Use the stationary activity centre properly. Check the label to make sure the activity centre is strong enough to hold your baby's weight. For more information on stationary activity centres, visit Health Canada - Consumer Product Safety or call 1 866-662-0666
Let baby jumpers be fun instead of dangerous
Young children have been injured from baby jumpers when they were not used as intended. A baby jumper is a seat that is hung from the top of a doorframe with a clamp and allows babies to bounce up and down. While these can be fun for a baby, they can cause injuries.
Here's how to help reduce the risk to your child:
Choose the right jumper. Make sure the jumper is appropriate for your baby's height, weight and age. It's important to follow the instructions. If you bought or borrowed a second hand jumper, make sure the jumper has all its parts.
Set up the jumper correctly. Injuries have occurred when baby jumpers are not installed properly. Check the instruction booklet for doorways that can support the jumper. Before you place your baby in the jumper, check that the clamps and straps are secured. Use the baby jumper as intended in the instructions.
Supervise your baby at all times. Do not leave your baby unattended while in the jumper. Limit your baby's jumping time to 10-15 minutes. For more information on baby jumpers or to see if the product has been recalled, visit Health Canada - Consumer Product Safety or call 1 866-662-0666.
Home playground equipment
The play structures in your backyard may be smaller and shorter than those at the park or in the school playground, but your children can still be injured. In Canada, there is a set of standards created by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) for safer playground design. The CSA standard does not apply to home playgrounds, but similar rules can be applied to designing safer play spaces at home. See our home playgrounds section for more detailed information.
Do not use backyard trampolines. Jumping on the trampoline is a high risk activity with the potential for significant injury to children and youth. Every year, more than 500 Canadian children suffer trampoline-related injuries which are equal to more than 15 classrooms full of children. The most common types of trampoline-related injuries include: fractures and dislocations, with the possibility of paralysis and death from cervical spine injury.
Given the nature of the injuries, supervision by adults or even trained spotters is ineffective in preventing serious trampoline injuries to children. Parachute agrees with the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine. We recommend that parents not buy or use trampolines at home (including cottages and summer residences) for children and youth.