Consider safety when choosing gifts for children

It would be too easy as a librarian to just recommend: “Buy all of the kids on your shopping list some wonderful age-appropriate books!”

While preventable injury isn’t a happy holiday topic, it is an important one. The Health Information Neighborhood partnered with Safe Kids Kansas to promote safe toys for kids with an eye-catching display in the Atrium this month. Unfortunately, preventable injury remains the leading killer of Kansas children ages 1-14, taking more lives than any other cause including diseases, homicide and suicide.

Tips on Toy and Shopping Safety from Safe Kids Kansas

  • Read and follow the instructions. Follow warning labels, minimum age restrictions and manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Make sure to buy age-appropriate toys. Do not buy toys with small parts for children younger than age three. Also, don’t allow a child under age three to play with those kinds of toys belonging to an older child. Do not give toys that contain small magnets to children. Magnets are dangerous if swallowed.
  •  Keep batteries out of reach. A coin-sized button battery can be easily swallowed by a child and burn through the tissue of their throat in just two hours causing severe injury or death. These batteries are found in many devices, including remote controls, musical greeting cards, watches, bathroom scales, and flameless candles. If a child swallows a battery, go to the emergency room immediately. Tell doctors and nurses that your child may have swallowed a battery. Do not let the child eat or drink until a chest x-ray can be done. Do not induce vomiting. Call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 for more information.
  • A gift isn’t complete without safety gear. Riding toys cause the greatest number of toy-related injuries. If you give a riding toy, such as a scooter, skateboard, in-line skates or bicycle, remember that the gift isn’t complete without a helmet and appropriate protective gear.
  • Store toys safely. Teach children to put toys away after playing to help prevent trips and falls. Make sure toys for older children are kept out of reach of younger children. Safe storage also applies to toys for adults, like the small, powerful magnet sets used as stress relievers. When swallowed in multiples, these magnets can attract to another through soft, delicate tissue in the intestines, keeping them from passing through like a coin or marble. This attraction can cause injury such as tears or blockage of the intestines requiring surgery.
  • Inspect toys. Make sure toys are not broken. Do not let young children play with toys that have straps, cords or strings longer than 7 inches, due to the risk of strangulation.
  • Check toys for safety recalls. Go to to make sure toys are free from any safety recalls. You can sign up for emails to be alerted whenever a children’s product is recalled. You can also use this website to report a safety defect.
  • Actively supervise children. You should actively supervise children playing with any toy that has small parts, moving parts, electrical or battery power, cords, wheels or any other potentially risky component. Active supervision means keeping the child in sight, in reach and giving them your full attention.

Here are some general guidelines from to keep in mind when toy-shopping:

  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.
  • Art materials should say nontoxic.
  • Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means that they’ve been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Safer gift suggestions from Safe Kids Kansas for children ages 3-5

The American Academy of Pediatrics adds:

  • Toys that plug into an electrical outlet are a no-no for the under 10 set.
  • Buttons, batteries, and magnets pose a serious health risk when swallowed, causing stomach and intestinal problems and possible death.
  • Store toys in designated areas, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest, and keep older children’s toys away from younger children.  

Several recent articles highlight the considerations that should be given to electronic gadgets and kids, including teaching teens texting safety while walking/driving, considering the content of videogames and movies, and discussing increased eye strain, decreased physical activity and interrupted sleep from the gadgets.


Talk about toys with your kids

Talking about toy safety with smaller children can revolve around discussions of picture books about favorite toys, including:

  • My special one and only by Joe Berger
  • Forgiving a friend by Virginia L. Kroll
  • Small by Clara Vulliamy
  • I must have Bobo by Eileen Rosenthal
  • Be gentle with the dog, dear by Matthew Baek

Request these books at

Lissa Staley

Lissa Staley helps people use the library. She is a Book Evangelist, Health Information Librarian, Arts & Crafts Librarian, Trivia Emcee, Classics Made Modern book group leader, and frequent library customer, especially with her children. She reads a new book every few days, but recently loved Adorkable by Sarra Manning, Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman and Tin Star by Cecil Castellucchi.