A child’s job is to play and toys are their tools, says Dr. Gary Smith, an injury prevention researcher and director of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Smith used nationally representative data to examine trends in toy-related injuries in the U.S. from 1990 to 2011.
In 2011, a child was treated in an emergency department for a toy-related injury every three minutes, Smith and his team said in Monday’s online issue of the journal Clinical Pediatrics.
For children under three, the greatest hazard was the risk of choking on small toys or toy parts.
For those five to 17, riding toys such as foot-powered scooters, wagons and tricycles were associated with 42 per cent of the injuries.
"The increasing number and rate of toy-related injuries to children, especially those associated with ride-on toys, underscore the need for increased efforts to prevent these injuries," Smith, the study’s senior author and his team, concluded.
Foot-powered scooters first became popular in 2000.
In the study, ride-on toys were three times more likely to be associated with a fracture or dislocation compared with other toys.
Overall, the annual rate of injury rose almost 40 per cent during the 1990-2011 period, from about 19 per 100,000 to 26 per 100,000, the researchers found.
They findings highlight the need to increase efforts to prevent injuries associated with ride-on toys, especially nonmotorized scotters, they said.
"Protective equipment, especially helmets, should be used with ride-on toys," the study’s authors recommended.
They acknowledged that the variety of toy types and prevention methods can be daunting do caregivers, but pointed to how better parental awareness was associated with reduced risk of choking on small toy parts.
Some other safety tips for parents and caregivers:- Follow age restrictions and other manufacturer guidelines for all toys.
- Examine toys for small parts that could be choking hazards.
- Use riding toys on dry, flat surfaces away from vehicle traffic.
- Closely supervise any child younger than age eight who is on a riding toy.
- Have kids wear helmets, knee pads and elbow pads on scooters and other riding toys with wheels.
- Check government toy recall websites such as healthycanadians.gc.ca or recalls.gov to see if any toys have been recalled.