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Don't Let Toys Harm You, Play Safe
by Dr. Anjana Maitra

Down the ages children all over the world have been playing with a wide variety of toys, ranging from the crude dolls of ancient times to the modern sophisticated gadgets available today. The market is flooded with a plethora of toys which can provide hours of fun and pleasure. However, you should be aware of that there are some seemingly harmless toys that can cause severe injury to you if you are not careful.

A badly made toy can cause untold harm to a child and may even cost him his life. Though no statistics are available on the subject, but each year several hundred children are brought to harm by their own playthings.

Soon after the mythological mega tele serials ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ were aired on TV, children all over India started to play with bows and arrows. Sadly many of them were the victims of tragic accidents, some even losing an eye in the process.

Plasticine, which is used to mould different shapes by children, is reported to have choked many a kid, when he carelessly puts it in his mouth. Buttons (the ‘eyes’ or ‘nose’ of the cute cuddly stuffed toy) may also get accidentally lodged in the nose, ear or mouth. Small parts of other toys, including the ‘keys’ of mechanical toys may also be dangerous in this way.

The heavy weights: Small toys made of metal or solid wood are often very heavy and when a small child is unable to hold it in his hands for long, he may hurl it at his siblings. This may cause grave injuries including deep cuts and gashes, a black eye or even a concussion.

Sharp edges: Toys with sharp edges can damage the sensitive skin of a child. In many cases it can injure his eye. Broomstick toys are a big culprit in this respect. These are usually bought from the balloon or ‘chakri’ sellers in parks or beaches.

Rattles and plastic toys: Rattles which contain small ‘stones’ which make a noise are often broken by an inquisitive child, and he may inadvertently swallow the stone or put it in his ear or nose. Play things made of thin celluloid (hard plastic) crack and break quickly and the sharp edges can scrape the eye. Marbles, seemingly harmless, have also caused several severe accidents including choking, blocking of the nose, ear etc.

The gun toting kid: Most boys like to play with guns and pretend they are soldiers shooting down the enemy. However parents should refrain from buying those toy guns which shoot little pellets and darts, as these can harm another child. It is better to go in for those guns which make a noise but don’t eject anything.

Balls: A small child playing with a ball should always be supervised. Children often blindly run after a ball without thinking and many children have been run over by a passing car in this way. My friend’s son had a brain injury when he fell off the balcony while going after his ball.

Tin toys: Most of the tin toys like cars, buses, clowns with drums, soldiers, toy kitchen utensils, guns etc are made of inferior quality tin. What’s more, below the brightly exterior paint, the tin is rusted. So when it scrapes a child’s skin, it is extremely dangerous. Also, most of the tin toys are badly made and curious fingers often pry open the edges or joints, causing painful injuries.

Stuffed toys: The cute stuffed toys may be harmful to your child if he is allergic to the synthetic fur; he may even develop asthma. Also the stuffed toys attract a lot of dust and since small kids often lick or suck their toys, this is dangerous as well. Also the buttons (eyes, nose etc) may get dislodged and go into the child’s ear, nose etc.

Paint problem: The bright paint on colorful metal and wooden toys can be a source of poisoning. The enamel paint often used is lead-based, has vegetable pigments and petroleum-derived solvents.

Age factor: Parents should keep in mind the age factor while buying toys. Most good toy companies mark their toys with the suitable age group (eg 3-5 years), but ordinary ones may not. For example while a Board game like Ludo or Chinese Checkers will bring hours of pleasure to an older child, a two year old would prefer to put the colourful dice and markers in his mouth and get choked in the process.

Toys travel: A toy picks up germs everywhere – right from the factory to the shop, to our home (when it lies on the floor, under the bed or in the cupboard) or when it travels with the child to the doctor’s chamber, railway station or airport. These germs are transmitted to the child when he plays with it and may cause untold harm.

Balloon blues: The rubber of balloons if swallowed sticks like glue to the throat and may gag or choke a child.

Broken toys: Jagged ends, exposed springs and hinges, stuffing which spills out and exposed and broken ends may be quite dangerous.

Remedies and tips for parents:

  • Choose toys appropriate for the child’s age.

  • Give washable toys to very small children.

  • Before buying metal toys, check carefully for any sharp or ragged edges which may injure the child.

  • Always supervise a child playing with fireworks during Diwali.

  • Avoid giving bows and arrows and catapults to kids.

  • Pad up the end of broomstick toys with a hanky or a tape.

  • After a birthday party clear up all the balloon pieces which may be lying around.

  • If your child wheezes or sneezes while playing with a particular toy, remove it at once.

  • Don’t hoard broken toys; the faster you dump them the safer will your child be.  

Image under license with Gettyimages.com

19-Nov-2006
 
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