‘Trouble in Toyland’: How to avoid choking hazards when choosing toys

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s no secret little kids put everything and anything in their mouths. The American Academy of Pediatrics lists choking as the No. 1 cause of death in children.

Before you stuff the stockings and get things wrapped up for the holidays, there is a simple test you can do to make sure the toys you -- or Santa -- plan to deliver are safe.

The most common choking hazards include:

  • Coins
  • Buttons
  • Small balls or marbles
  • Balloons
  • Pen or marker caps
  • Toys with small parts

How small is too small?

Here’s how to check if a toy or its parts are too small. You can use a device called a choke test cylinder, which simulates the mouth and throat of a child under 3 years old. Or you can cut a toilet paper roll to size and see if the toys or pieces – like blocks or puzzle pieces -- are small enough to be swallowed or cause obstruction.

When buying toys, there are four things to keep in mind:

  1. Read the label. They give important information about how to use a toy and safe ages for play.
  2. Think large. Make sure toys and parts are larger than your child’s mouth. Again, you can use the homemade choking cylinder to check.
  3. Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air. They can cause eye injuries or choking.
  4. When it comes to stuffed animals, make sure all the parts are “on tight” and seams and edges are secure. It should also be machine washable. Avoid “stuffies” that have small bean-like pellets or stuffing that can cause choking or suffocation if swallowed.

About the Author:

This Emmy Award-winning television, radio and newspaper journalist has anchored The Morning Show for 18 years.