Is There Danger Lurking On Your Child’s Holiday Wish List?

Holiday shopping season is underway, and our kids are making their lists.

While toys and games are fun and exciting to receive, they can also pose some serious dangers.

If you have children of multiple ages, there’s something important you need to know.

Parents know not to buy toys or games with small pieces for infants and toddlers, but it is all too easy for small pieces from our older kids’ toys to find their way into the mouths of exploring little ones who don’t know any better.

And sometimes, even older kids joke around and do things they know they shouldn’t.

Such was the case for one family who experienced a freak accident that almost ended their son’s life.

Aubrey Arvidson shared her story with Café Mom recently to warn parents about dangerous toys that may be on your child’s holiday wish list.

Aubrey’s six-year-old son, Mikah, was playing with his older brother’s set of Zen Magnets, extremely small blocks of magnetic balls that can be molded and fidgeted with – something they thought would be helpful for the older child’s ADHD.

But Mikah was not supposed to be playing with the magnet set.  He was almost caught when his brother came home, and Mikah made a tragic mistake.

He put the ball of magnets in his mouth to hide them, later taking them out.  But unbeknownst to his parents – or even Mikah himself – he had swallowed a few.

His mother thought he would pass them since they were so small, but that was not to be the case.

After days of vomiting from what they thought was a stomach virus, Mikah was taken to the hospital.  A nightmare scenario unfolded as doctors found several of the magnets had ripped through his intestines and bile duct.

“When they went in for the surgery, they discovered that his small intestines had been perforated in two different locations and the magnets had just kind of kinked a section of his intestines so it was all backed up,” Aubrey explained to Café Mom.

Surgery after surgery followed to repair damage, and Mikah is still a very sick little boy.

“Now I’m like, if I had even like just typed in the name on Google I would have seen all these articles about thousands of children who had emergency room surgical procedures because of these,” she says. 

“These specifics magnets that they have out on the market are 20 times stronger than a regular fridge magnet. And they’re so tiny that they look harmless, that they do serious damage — I mean they’re fatal.”

Aubrey wanted to share her story to warn other parents about dangerous toys out on the market.

These magnets, and other toys like them, are among the most dangerous.  Numerous toys and games contain small magnets, and parents may not understand how serious it can be if a child swallows them.

The magnets are tiny, so parents aren’t concerned as much about choking.  But if a crawling infant or toddler finds one on the floor (very difficult to keep track of if they spill), it could spell disaster.

While federal regulations have prohibited the sale of toys with small magnets due to many tragedies like Mikah’s, there is an exception for magnets included in certain “hobby, craft, and science kit-type items” intended for children age eight years and older, provided the products comply with special magnet hazard disclosure requirements, according to a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Meaning a kit like the one that Mikah got a hold of may not have any ban against it.  And magnets are not the only hidden danger in this season’s holiday toys.

The group has released their annual report, “Trouble In Toyland,” detailing the most dangerous toys on the market this year.

They include numerous “slime” products that have been extremely popular this year.  Many have been found to contain high levels of boron and other dangerous chemicals.

Although lead has been banned in most products since the late 1970s, many toys still contain small pieces in their inner-workings that contain the dangerous substance.

Lead can leach into plastic parts or a chemical reaction may take place when a toy is exposed to sunlight or water.  And many foreign companies still export toys that contain lead to the U.S.

Another popular product on the market for older kids are water beads.  These small plastic beads absorb water and expand into squishy, marble-sized balls.

They are easy to lose track of and if several are swallowed by an infant or toddler, they can stick together and create a blockage in the throat or digestive tract.  Complaints have also been lodged when small children have put the beads in their ears and nose.

Of course, there are countless other toys we must watch for like balloons, popular “squish” toys made of soft foam where pieces can be bitten off, small balls – the list goes on and on.

And like everything else, just because you buy a toy for an older child does not guarantee a little one will not come across it.

If you do purchase a toy for an older child with small or dangerous pieces in it, lay down some ground rules.

Keep older kids’ toys in locking plastic storage containers on a high shelf or in a locked storage cabinet.

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Insist that older children always play with these toys and games in a designated area away from any smaller children in the house, and make sure they diligently clean up the toy and put it back in its spot when they’re done playing.

Leaving something out for “just a second” can mean the difference between life and death.

We know it’s already hard enough to keep the toys picked up each day, but make a habit of checking floors, corners of carpeting, or other areas where a dangerous item could be hiding.

It’s also good practice for parents to go online and research the toys they are thinking of purchasing for the holidays.

Has there been a last-minute recall you are unaware of?  Are there any negative comments from other parents posted online?

And groups like the Consumer Products Safety Commission and U.S. PIRG listed above have lists of this year’s most dangerous toys readily available for parents.

We want to give our children the trendy, fun toys of the season and find things that interest them — but safety comes first.

Do your research, stay vigilant in your home, and stay safe this holiday season.

Have you ever had an incident with a dangerous or recalled toy that injured your child?  What do you do to keep the toys and games of older and younger kids separate in your home?  Leave us your advice.