Six important questions when buying toys this Christmas

Many families will be right in the middle of buying Christmas presents for their children. There’s an unlimited range of toys available at the moment, so it’s important to make sure you buy the safest ones for your children.

Safekids Aotearoa, Energizer and Trading Standards (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) have recently sent out a useful list of questions to consider when buying toys for your children.

1. Are the button batteries secured?

Many toys, musical cards and other products are powered by coin-sized lithium or button batteries. Button battery-related child injury is an emerging issue. In the past three years, the National Poisons Centre has received 175 calls regarding children under six years swallowing or inserting batteries in their nose and ears. Sixty three children have also been treated at the Starship Children’s Health Emergency Department from March 2009 to February 2012.

Safety Message: Ensure that the battery compartments of toys and household gadgets are secure, keep button batteries out of reach, take a child to hospital immediately if swallowing is suspected and tell others about this danger.

2. Is it age-appropriate?

This isn’t just about matching a toy with a child’s development. It is also about making sure gifts don’t pose a safety risk. For example, any small toy or toy part that can fit inside a toilet roll is a choking hazard to a baby or small child. Don’t forget – a toy that is safe for a 10 year old, for example, could be potentially dangerous to a baby or toddler.

3. Does it meet NZ-recognised safety standards?

Safety standards ensure products meet minimum safety requirements. Some standards are mandatory, but even if a standard is voluntary it can help ensure the product is safe. Only buy children’s products if they have NZ-recognised standards. Most of the following products sold in New Zealand have to meet NZ standards: child restraints, scooters, safety helmets, toys for children under three years old, children's nightwear, household cots and bicycles.

For more about safety standards, check out the Keeping Kids Safe booklet.

4. Is it easy to install?

Many large gifts, such as trampolines and bicycles, come in a flat pack and rely on the buyer’s ability to put it together. Incorrectly assembled they may not meet the required safety standard and could cause an injury. Carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions. If in doubt, get a professional or someone with the appropriate skills to put it together.

5. Does it need a helmet?

Bicycles and scooters are one of the most popular Christmas gifts for children. Always remember that it is a law to wear helmets when cycling, even for small kids. Wearing safety helmets reduces the risk of severe brain injury by as much as 74%.

6. Does it require active supervision?

With all the hustle and bustle of the festive season, it can be challenging to keep an eye on kids. Some play equipment – particularly paddling/swimming pools and trampolines – demand active supervision. Don’t give these as gifts them if you think this will be difficult to achieve.

More information

Visit the Safekids website to find out more about product safety standards, recall notices and safety advice. You can also find more information on our website about keeping safe around toys and your home in general.

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