From action figures to wagons, about 3 billion toys fly off American shelves each year—especially around the holidays. And a 2015 study suggests an increasing number of them may be causing kids harm.
Between 1990 and 2011, the rate of kids visiting the ER following a run-in with a toy increased about 40 percent. That’s according to findings published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics.
Scooters Pose the Biggest Risk
The biggest reason for this rise? A spike in falls and other accidents from foot-powered scooters, according to Dr. Rebecca Doise, Medical Director for the kids E.R. at Women’s & Children’s Hospital. These devices first became popular in the early 2000s. A wave of serious and even fatal injuries followed, she said.
“Through public safety efforts and a drop in scooter demand, injury risk fell for a while. But beginning in 2005, the rate of injuries began to rise once again,” Dr. Doise said. “And these weren’t just scrapes and bruises. About 42 percent of kids hurt by a scooter or other riding toy were admitted to the hospital.”
Steps to Keep Kids Safe
Manufacturers and safety officials should work to make all toys – including scooters – safer, the study authors say. However, parents can play a key role in keeping youngsters injury-free during playtime. Dr. Doise recommends:
- Requiring protective gear – including helmets – for scooters and other riding toys.
- Taking care with toy weapons, as they also caused many injuries. Arrows or darts should have soft cork, rubber suction cups or other protective tips.
- Buying age-appropriate items. You can download helpful tips by age group from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Log on to cpsc.gov and click “Safety Education” then “Safety Guides.” Choose “Toys,” then scroll down to “Buying Toys for Children Ages 0-5” or “Buying Toys for Children Ages 6-12.”
In addition, Dr. Doise offers the following advice for parents:
DO buy your children helmets — and insist they wear them whenever they ride their scooters or trikes. Not only to protect them now, but to cultivate a habit that will help keep them safe in their biking (and rollerblading and skateboarding) future. Knee and elbow pads are optional for scooter and trike safety, but they’re a good idea for those kids — and there are lots of them — who are still working on coordination.
DON’T think that a helmet lasts forever. Replace your child’s helmet if he or she takes a big spill (or when the strap seems too tight under the chin).
DON’T teach your child to ride a scooter on a driveway — the asphalt’s no place to take spills. A sidewalk next to a grassy area is better for scooter safety because it offers a softer spot for falls (and no possibility of cars). Short grass (like your freshly mowed backyard) is also a good place for newbie riders to practice since they won’t be able to go very fast.
DO teach your child to always ask you if it’s okay to ride — and set a strict rule that there will be no riding unless a grown-up is watching.
DON’T let your child ride barefoot. Closed-toe shoes are better than sandals, especially when it comes to scooter safety, since your child has to kick the pavement to move along.
DO dress your child in brightly colored clothing before he or she goes out to ride. If your little one is easy to see, big kids on bikes and scooters will be better able to stay out of the way.
DON’T let your child ride near swimming pools, steps or hills (including driveways with steep inclines).
DO check the scooter, trike or ride-on toy every so often to make sure the brakes (if there are any) are working properly and the tires are firm.
DO periodic “fit” checks — if your child’s scrunching down to reach the handlebars of a scooter or tricycle or his or her feet are too wide for the scooter base or trike pedals, it’s time for an upgrade.
For more tips like these and to see the average wait time in the kids E.R. at Women’s & Children’s Hospital, visit www.Womens-Childrens.com.