With the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season less than four days away, a consumer advocacy group has unveiled its annual list of toys that are potentially harmful to children.
This year’s “10 Worst Toys” (PDF) announced by consumer watchdog World Against Toys Causing Harm (WATCH) on Monday identifies a range of potential hazards in toys sold both in stores and online.
The possible safety threats highlighted by the group include many offences that have appeared on previous lists, such as small plastic parts and fibre-like hairs that small children could ingest and choke on, toys that encourage aggressive or violent play that could result in impact injuries, and toys sold with unrealistic warnings and instructions.
“Small part hazards, warnings that cannot be followed in real life, impact injury. These are not new and it begs the question why are these toys still manufactured?” WATCH president Joan Siff told Al Jazeera.
Compounding the toy safety challenge this year are social-distancing restrictions that are prompted by the coronavirus pandemic and that are forcing parents and caregivers to keep children at home and entertained.
“These are concerns we have every year, but more so this year with schools closed, playdates put on hold, and sports activities cancelled,” said Siff. “Home is literally the only game in town for millions of kids.”
There were an estimated 226,100 toy-related injuries in the United States in 2018 – the most recent year for which statistics are available, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some 70 percent of those injuries involved children 12 years of age or younger, while 37 percent involved kids aged five or younger.
WATCH is urging parents and caregivers to be vigilant when it comes to toy safety, advising them to familiarise themselves with the classic red flags as well as learning how to identify hidden hazards.
Inspecting toys and packaging for warning signs before giving them to children is another proactive measure.
“When a toy arrives at your doorstep, get into the packaging, read the warnings, see if you’re comfortable with it,” says Siff.
Examining old toys that are already in a child’s toybox for dangerous defects and designs is also crucial.
Toys that have been recalled – and that have ended up online for resale – are another danger for which parents need to be on the lookout, says Siff.
When a toy arrives at your doorstep, get into the packaging, read the warnings.
The 2020 list
The 10 specific toys that made this year’s list include Calico Critters Nursery Friends and My Sweet Love Lots to Love Mini Baby Dolls, which were both flagged by WATCH for small plastic parts that kids could choke on.
The Missile Launcher and Marvel Avengers Vibranium Power FX Claw aimed at kids aged five and older – as well as the Boom City Racers Starter Pack and the Star Wars Mandalorian Darksaber, both geared toward kids aged four years or older – were all singled out by WATCH for their potential to cause eye or facial injuries.
Gloria Owl, a cuddly plush toy for babies as young as 12 months old, made the list due to long, fibre-like hair that WATCH says maybe “prone to shredding”, which could lead to ingestion and choking injuries.
WWE Jumbo Superstar Fists aimed at kids aged three or older harbour the potential for blunt force of impact injuries says WATCH.
Scientific Explorer Sci-Fi Slime, intended for kids aged 10 years and older, landed on the list for its potential to cause chemical-related injuries, according to WATCH, while The Original Boomerang Interactive Stunt UFO for kids aged eight and older made the list for its potential to cause cuts and propeller-related injuries.
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