Children, right from birth, begin the journey to learning, growth, and development. Parents and guardians are the first parties responsible for providing quality experiences from which children learn. Parents often turn to pediatricians for advice on providing the best environment possible for child care and development.

It is a given that a young child’s growth and development can be supported and enhanced through play. Toys serve as one of the essential media in achieving this objective. While toys should never substitute for a  parent’s care and interaction with a child, toys can facilitate the building of relationships as caregiver and child relish in the mutual joy and delight of discoveries.

The Role Of The Pediatrician In Toy Use And Safety

Pediatricians are tasked with providing insight and guidance regarding the proper use of toys. These professionals should be able to serve as a repository of knowledge regarding toy, safety, health, and other social/cultural implications associated with toys. For instance, Pediatricians may be required to substantiate some marketing campaigns that advertise that specific toys will facilitate specific developmental milestones. If left unchecked, these advertisements can engender misinformation, inappropriate expectations, and unnecessary expenditures. Other undesirable outcomes may give rise to feelings of guilt in parents who couldn’t afford such toys. There is an aspect of the safe use of toys and the toys themselves. It is essential that Pediatricians get familiar with current recommendations about toy safety and guidelines on the safe cleaning and maintenance of toys.

See: Selecting The Right And Safe Toys For Kids

Understanding Toy Labeling

Many global health and safety regulatory agencies come up with rules and guidelines that govern the sale, marketing, and use of toys. In the United  States of America, the agency responsible for oversight/regulation of the toy industry is the Consumer Product Safety Organisation(CPSC). An essential part of CPSC’s responsibilities is ensuring that toys obtain approved/appropriate labeling. This action will help parents/caregivers, and healthcare professionals decipher which toys are suitable and safe for which children.

The age-labeling of toys breaks down into two significant planks/components.  The first age-related warning pertains to toys that present any hazard to young children. Under this categorization, toys with small parts, balloons, or small balls require an age-related warning tag on the product. The principal hazard associated with these toy-types is the possibility of choking in infants. The regulation of this aspect of toy labeling is strict and strictly enforced.

The second aspect of toy-labeling focuses on developmental age labeling. This policy describes the age of the children for whom the toy is intended when it does not have a small parts warning.  Developmental determination is often carried out by original toy manufacturers, aided by nominated third-party assessors. Toys under developmental age labeling are not legally bound to have indications to that effect. Developmental age labeling comes across as a deliberate industry practice, subject to other interests of the toy-maker.

More Words About Small Parts In Toys

It is essential that Pediatricians situate the importance of small parts in toys, to the overall health and safety of the child. From the viewpoint of behavior, young children are prone to putting objects in their mouths as they explore their environment. Pediatricians also recognize that the anatomical makeup of the child places him/her at risk of suffocation. This risk from choking is magnified because of the small trachea present in infants. Besides, young children lack the tussive force necessary to expel a foreign body from the alimentary canal.

Must Read: Satisfying Children With Special Needs With Toys

Recommendations for Pediatricians

Here are some toy safety recommendations for pediatricians by the American Association of Pediatrics.

  1. Pediatricians can assist parents in selecting toys to suit the age, abilities, skills, and interest level of the intended child.
  2. Pediatricians should recommend toys that build developmental skills. Toys like shape sorters, push/pull toys as well as stacking blocks are ideal for developing motor, cognitive, and perceptual skills.
  3. Caregivers should be advised against purchasing toys with button batteries or magnets. This type of toys has the highest risk of those parts being swallowed by the child.
  4. To prevent electric shocks, Pediatricians should not recommend toys that need a connection to a power source. Battery-powered toys will suffice.
  5. Parents should go for toys without small parts/pieces.
  6. Pediatricians should advocate for the proper storing of toys. Toys should be kept in designated areas such as an open shelf or in a bin; and especially from the reach of children. Also, toys for older kids should be separated from those for younger children.
About the Author Tom Brewer

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