Santa’s shopping safely, are you?
You won’t be able to avert your eyes from the Christmas display in the local supermarket for much longer; the festive season’s edging closer. And as much as we’d like to put it to the backs of our minds, pretty soon we’ll find ourselves racing round the shops buying armfuls of presents for family and friends.
Before you know it, it’ll be Christmas Eve and you’ll be in a toy shop ten minutes before closing time trying to get a present for your six-month old nephew. And in the mad panic that precedes Christmas, it can be easy to overlook some things which you’d otherwise check thoroughly when shopping for children’s toys.
Although your head may be full of shopping lists and trying to recall what you bought Great Aunty Elizabeth last year so you don’t get her the same present this year, try and remember the ‘Five S’s’ when you’re out shopping for kids toys.
The Five S’s
Size - the smaller the child, the bigger the toy should be. Children under three put everything in their mouths, up their noses and in their ears. Also, they can’t cough things up until they’re over three years old. If a toy is small enough to fit into a small container about the size of a film canister, or can easily break into small parts, a child under three should not be playing with it.
Smooth - if a toy has sharp points or rough edges a child could badly scratch or cut themselves.
Surface - check that any decorative bits and pieces on the surface of toys are firmly attached and any stuffing from soft toys can’t come out.
Strings - check that strings or tails on toys are not long enough to pose as a strangulation or choking hazard. Watch out, as they can also get wound around little fingers or toes.
Supervision - buying toys that don’t need close supervision may make life a lot easier. But small children need close supervision with toys to help prevent accidents. Remember that toys for older siblings shouldn’t find their way into the hands of younger brothers and sisters. A toy designed for a 12 year old may well pose a risk to a two year old.
Watch out for toys that play music, ring, clatter or click. They make fun toys for kids but noisy toys can also be a hazard; loud or shrill sounds can damage children's hearing. Think twice about buying noisy toys for children less than 18 months old. If you do buy toys that make a noise, they should be no louder than a washing machine or a dishwasher, and should be kept well away from a baby’s head.
For children over 18 months, and even as old as 14 years, sound from toys should not exceed 85 decibels (as a guide, heavy traffic, coffee grinders, or blenders are around 85 decibels). Be wary of any noise-makers that are designed to be put up to the ear, for example, toy mobile phones.
A mandatory Product Safety Standard exists for all toys that are intended or suitable for use by children under three years of age. This regulation requires that toys made for this age group do not pose eating and inhaling hazards. The Standard requires that toys do not have small parts that can come apart or break off the toy. All businesses involved in the manufacture, distribution and retail of toys suitable for children under three must comply with this Standard.
For further information on product safety and Product Safety Standards, visit the Ministry of Consumer Affairs’ website.