Trouble In Toyland

35th Annual Toy Safety Report

This year marks the 35th anniversary of our Trouble in Toyland report, which helps parents and caregivers spot toy hazards and offers advice to keep kids safer. As we approach the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents and caregivers in the United States still work from home while their kids participate in virtual learning. With siblings of all ages playing and spending more time together and parents juggling responsibilities with limited support, some dangerous toys are more difficult to supervise, and others are better left out of the home altogether.

2020 TOY SAFETY SURVEY: WHAT WE FOUND
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Mislabeled choking hazards

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We found a VTech Drill & Learn Toolbox at Target, labeled for children 2 to 5 years old. While the screws’ shape extends slightly over the edge of the CPSC test cylinder, it is still a near-small part. According to the CPSC’s 2006 report on toy deaths, three children died from choking or aspirating on toy nails or pegs. Toy bolts or pegs may still pose a choking hazard based on their shape, even if they pass the small parts test.

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Flocked animal figures

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Calico Critters and their accessories are suspected as the cause of death in at least one case involving a child in New Mexico, according to a court filing, and a near-death incident involving a boy in Utah. Both children were under 3 years old and reportedly choked on the exact same pacifier accessory.

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Recalled toys available online

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This year, we found multiple listings for three recalled toys — the 6” Promotional Aflac Doctor Duck, the Step2 Little Helper’s Children’s Grocery Shopping Cart and the Fisher-Price Barbie Dream Camper — all for sale on eBay.

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Noisy toys

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Not only can incredibly noisy toys be a serious nuisance when played on repeat, but they can also damage young children's ears. We tested a toy fire truck purchased on Amazon with both flashing lights and noise features that could damage kids’ hearing while playing.

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Items not advisable for children

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In September, a 9-year-old boy accidentally swallowed two small magnets from a Neutronball building set after putting them on his lip, pretending to have a piercing. Four months earlier, in May, another 9-year-old swallowed three high-powered magnets made by Zen Magnets LLC and required emergency surgery to remove them.

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In-app purchases

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One app called Coin Master is rated for ages 13 and older, but its kid-friendly animations could appeal to a younger age group. The game includes a virtual slot machine where players are given limited spins in a certain time period and are encouraged to buy more if they run out.

A lot of progress has been made, but new problems are emerging

Toy safety has come a long way, thanks to years of work from consumer advocates, public health experts, elected officials and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). But 2020 is unique, and as Americans have worked, learned and played from home to protect themselves from COVID-19, children could be more susceptible to certain toy-related hazards.

We need to advocate for stronger standards and enforcement

The government imposed an outright ban on certain high-powered rare earth magnets that was overturned in court in November 2016. The CPSC said there has been a “statistically significant increase in magnet ingestion incidents and injuries” since then. Still, parents continue to buy magnets for their children, and the CPSC estimates that thousands of children have been treated in emergency rooms because of magnets in the past decade. The CPSC should work with the industry to develop new safety standards requiring reduced strength of these high-powered magnets.

The popular Calico Critters flocked toys are animal figures covered in a thin, fuzzy material with bright accessories that make them appealing to young children. Although these toys are labeled for kids ages 3 years and older because of their small parts, CPSC regulation bans toys with small parts that are intended for use by children under 3 years of age, even if they are labeled with an age restriction by the manufacturer. "Flocked animals and other figures” are included in the list of toys intended for children under three, and the Calico Critters official website clearly describes their product as “animal figures [ ... ] made of a special flocked material that gives them an endearing quality.” The CPSC should recall these toys and their accessories as they pose a dangerous choking hazard to young kids.

We need to more effectively notify consumers of recalls

Since last year’s Trouble in Toyland report, the CPSC announced new voluntary recalls for 10 dangerous toys. We found three separate recalled toys for sale on eBay, and in two cases there were full pages of the recalled products. Our recall system should require companies to directly notify customers whenever possible if a product they’ve purchased has been recalled, both through social media and direct email notification.

TOY SAFETY TIPS

When toy shopping for the kids in your life, use this guide to help avoid dangerous toys.

Noisy toys

What to watch for Excessively noisy toys can cause permanent damage to children’s hearing over time and should be avoided when possible. Lower the volume, take out the batteries, switch modes or place tape over the speaker to muffle the sound.

Toys with small parts

What to watch for Most toys that contain small parts are labeled as choking hazards, but that’s not guaranteed. Parents with young children should thoroughly inspect toys, regardless of what the label does or doesn’t say and make decisions based on how they believe their child of any age will interact with the toy.

Balloons

What to watch for Never let a child under 3 play with balloons, and monitor any child under 8.

Flocked animal figures

What to watch for Parents with kids of any age should strongly consider avoiding Calico Critters and similar flocked figures, especially if there is a younger child also in the house.

Recalled toys available online

What to watch for When shopping for toys, especially at garage sales and second-hand stores or sites, check saferproducts.gov to confirm the toy hasn’t already been recalled.

Magnets and other items not advisable for children

What to watch for Never allow young children to play with high-powered magnets, and talk with older children about the dangers of being careless and leaving them within reach of their siblings.

In-app purchases

What to watch for The best way to make sure that a child doesn’t rack up a large in-game bill is by withholding the account password. Any account with a credit card should not be connected to a child’s fingerprint, so a parent has to approve of any purchase before it goes through.

ATTENTION ONLINE SHOPPERS

Most toys that contain small parts are labeled as choking hazards. But that’s not guaranteed, as we’ve seen. Gift-givers should use care when purchasing online, even if the toy says it’s meant for a 1-year-old or 2-year old. And parents with young children should thoroughly inspect toys, regardless of what the label does or doesn’t say. Parents should make decisions based on how they believe their child of any age will interact with the toy.

 

MORE RESOURCES

  • Subscribe to email recall updates from the CPSC and other U.S. government safety agencies available at www.recalls.gov.
  • Report unsafe toys or toy-related injuries to the CPSC at Saferproducts.gov.
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Read the full report

Photo credits—Top Image: Nomad Soul / Shutterstock.com. Highlight boxes (clockwise): CSPC; Public Domain via Pixabay.com; Barbara Rayman via WikiMedia, Dragon Images via Shutterstock; Public Domain via Pixabay.com; Staff photo. Toy Safety Tip (top to bottom): Tatiana Popova / Shutterstock.com; somsak nitimongkolchai / Shutterstock.com; Ink Drop / Shutterstock.com; Anna Mente / Shutterstock.com; Public Domain CC0; Public Domain CC0; staff; Photo Spirit / Shutterstock.com; Oakozhan / Shutterstock.com; Public Domain CC0; staff photo; CSPC.