NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Toys from the hit Disney movie "Frozen" have bumped Barbie as the most sought after toys for girls for this holiday shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation's most recent survey. Boys are looking for Legos. Add them as the most recent additions to a long list of past must-haves for children, joining Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies, Tamogatchis, Xbox consoles and Squinkies. Each year, parents not only have to find the latest in-demand toys in stock – and hopefully at a fair price – but also weigh concerns regarding playtime safety.
The Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio estimates that more than 3,250,000 children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms from 1990 through 2011 for toy-related injuries. In 2011 alone, that translated into one child being treated every 3 minutes for such an injury. More than half of those injuries were to children under five years of age.
And our children aren't playing safer. In fact, injuries rose nearly 40% during the 22-year period analyzed.
While choking hazards are the most frequent concern – and the most common form of injury for toddlers under the age of three -- riding toys are particularly hazardous for older children, accounting for 28% of injuries to children under the age of five and 42% of injuries to children from five to 17 years of age.
Wagons, tricycles and bikes account for their fair share of the hazards, but the leading cause of falls and collisions occur from the use of what would otherwise seem to be the most benign of rolling toys: the foot-powered scooter. Since new designs were released in 2000, foot-powered scooters have accounted for much of the increase in injury rates for children.
“The frequency and increasing rate of injuries to children associated with toys, especially those associated with foot-powered scooters, is concerning,” said Gary Smith, MD, the study’s senior author and director of the Center. “This underscores the need for increased efforts to prevent these injuries to children. Important opportunities exist for improvements in toy safety standards, product design, recall effectiveness, and consumer education.”
The report says that injuries from ride-on toys were three times more likely to involve a broken bone or dislocation than other toys. The center offers these toy safety tips:
- More than half of toy-related injuries occur with children under five, so be especially aware of small parts, including magnets and button-sized batteries.
- For children old enough for riding toys, make wearing a helmet a firm rule. Knee and elbow pads are also a good idea. And keep children a safe distance from streets and traffic.
- Keep a close watch on children under eight, especially on riding toys.
- And check for toy recalls by visiting www.recalls.gov.
--Hal M. Bundrick is a Certified Financial Planner and contributor to MainStreet. Follow him on Twitter: @HalMBundrick