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Holiday Hazards: Choosing Safe Toys this Holiday Season

Published on Dec. 16, 2021

For many parents, there isn’t much in the world more magical than watching your children open their gifts during the holidays. Leading up to the season, we’re often consumed with thoughts like: “Will they like it?” “Will it arrive in time?” “Did they want the red one or the blue one?” But as parents, there are several other important things we need to consider while looking for holiday gifts.

Toys for “The Toddler Set”: Crawlers, Cruisers and Toddlers

Children 3 years old and under are infinitely curious. Because they often explore the world around them with their mouths, it’s safe to assume that any toy you give them will, at some point, end up there. Keeping that in mind, remember when you’re shopping that small kids need big toys – or at least toys with big components – because small pieces could be a choking hazard.

A handy toy safety guide: if the toy or toy part can go through the opening of a toilet paper roll, it can be a choking hazard for a young child.

Balloons, inflatable toys and toys with strings or cords can pose a hazard for young children, too, so if you choose to buy toys with these components, be sure that an adult is always present when your child is playing with the toy. Also, look out for toys with sharp corners; choosing toys that have smoothed edges and corners can reduce the risk of a young child hurting themselves if they chew on or fall on the toy.

However, two of the most dangerous elements of many toys are button batteries and small magnets. These are small and often shiny, attracting a small child’s attention. Button batteries are found in remote controls, singing greeting cards, digital scales, watches, hearing aids, thermometers, toys, calculators, keys, flashing jewelry, or decorations. If swallowed, button batteries and magnets can become stuck in a child’s small esophagus (food tube) or in the intestinal tract and cause serious injury or even death. Batteries can cause severe chemical burns very quickly, so it’s critical to get help right away. If you suspect your child has swallowed a battery, seek immediate help from the nearest emergency room.

Loose batteries should be locked away or a piece of tape should be put over the battery compartment of a controller to secure the device.

Keep in mind that toddlers might also be interested in their older siblings’ toys, which may contain smaller parts, so ensure that you store toys that have small parts together, away from little hands (and mouths!).

Tweens, Teens and Tech

As kids get older, gifts tend to trend more towards sports/activity equipment and new tech gear. If you’re planning on giving your tween or teen sports equipment, make sure it’s developmentally appropriate and of good quality. It’s also a good idea to get your tween/teen into the pediatrician for a sports physical to ensure they’re ready to participate in their favorite physical activities. Wheeled toys (skateboards, bikes, hover boards, skates, etc.) should always come paired with a well-fitting helmet.

For the tech-savvy teen, a smartphone or new set of earbuds are always popular gifts, but it’s important that they come with a good amount of parental guidance, too. Because these items can be distracting, make sure your teen knows when it’s safe to use tech and when it’s better to log off and pay attention (like when driving, crossing the street, etc.).

Did you know? Ear buds and headphones can pose long-term hearing problems when played at high decibels. Earbuds today can reach as high as 120 decibels – that’s just about the sound level of a jet engine! To prevent long-term hearing damage, limit devices to 60% maximum volume for total of 60 minutes/day.

The Gift of Celebrating Safely

Giving a child is holiday gift is a wonderful experience, but keeping safety in mind can mean the difference between “the most wonderful time of the year” and “trouble in Toyland.” If you’re wondering whether a toy is developmentally or age appropriate, see if the product has a suggested age range and look for a consumer warning label on the front of the package to let you know of potential risks a particular toy or toy components may pose to children.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very happy, healthy and safe holiday season!

Interested in learning more?

Click here to check out Safe Kids Central CA’s recent Lunch and Learn event on Facebook, where Dr. Hailey Nelson and Carlos Flores, RN, from Valley Children’s give more toy safety advice and how to safely celebrate the holiday season.


About the Authors

Kristina Pasma, BSN, RN, CPSI, is a trauma nurse liaison at Valley Children's Healthcare. She is also the Safe Kids Central California Coalition Coordinator and is passionate about educating children and their families about injury prevention at home and in the community.


Board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, Dr. Hailey Nelson joined Valley Children’s as a complex care pediatrician at the Charlie Mitchell Children’s Center in 2016. Dr. Nelson enjoys working with children of all ages and abilities and is especially passionate about providing the best possible care to medically fragile children and their families. She is also a licensed breastfeeding consultant, certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultants to support nursing mothers and their babies.