December is designated as Toy Safety Month to help us be aware of toy safety as we do our holiday shopping. However, in the 21st century, children receive a lot of gifts that are not toys.
In one survey, 59% of parents said that kids 10 and up no longer need toys. More than half of the parents in the survey listed electronic toys and video games as the main toys they buy their children. More than 60% feel that their children already own too many toys.
So it’s no surprise that parents are buying non-toy gifts for their children.
The safety issue of non-toy gifts
There are strict safety standards for toys. Toy makers that follow these rules make safe, non-toxic toys and show their safety certifications. You can feel confident that the doll, art supplies, or building toys you purchase to put under the Christmas tree will not endanger your child.
However, you have no such assurance with non-toy gifts. There are no rules for the safety of office supplies, dress-up clothes from the thrift store, or kitchen tools.
Check out these posts on safe toys to remind yourself of potential toy dangers, then read on for non-toy safety issues.
Non-toy gifts and safety concerns
Some of the most popular non-toy gifts, including books, museum memberships, outings, and classes, pose no real dangers for your children. Art supplies have their own safety rules and certifications.
What about the things that are intended for adult use and therefore do not have safety guidance and certification? Check these factors:
- Small parts can create a choking hazard for under-3s. A dress-up box can provide lots of play value, but watch for costume jewelry and embellishments that can be detached from the clothing.
- Batteries are a special case of small parts. Not only can they cause a choking hazard, but they can also be dangerous for other reasons as well.
- Tools for gardening, cooking, baking, sewing, and building can be inspiring for kids. They can also have sharp edges and points. Check them before you buy, and make sure to supervise kids’ use of them.
- Cooking, baking, making soap and spa products, or 3-D printing can all be great activities for kids. They can also all lead to burns. Supervise this kind of play.
- Magnets can be a lot of fun, but swallowing magnets can be dangerous for kids. Once again, make sure that small magnets don’t make it into your under-3s Christmas stockings.
- Fragile materials like glass and porcelain can break and expose sharp edges. A special “grown-up” tea set can be a treat but should be used with supervision.
- Science and STEM equipment can make awesome experiences for kids. They can also present hazards. It’s smart to check the suggested age range for science tools and to plan on supervising the use of lab equipment.
Safety of Phones, Tablets, and Computers
Phones, tablets, and computers are top items on children’s wish lists today but think twice before buying a device made for adults. Children’s brains are still developing, and studies have shown that too much screen time can be harmful to their development. Phones and tablets are addictive and can lead to loss of activity and sleep. Look for simple devices that are made for children, develop rules for using the device (and plan on monitoring usage of the new device), or consider waiting to give the gift at an appropriate age.
For more information, read the American Academy of Pediatrics Media Use Guidelines for Families.
Safety rules for toys and non-toy gifts
Whether you’re thinking about safe toys or non-toy gifts, you should take a critical look before you buy, check any age recommendations (though non-toys may not include that information), and plan to supervise play.