To ensure it’s smiles all around when presents are opened this giving season, be on the alert and don’t wrap up any of the toys the folks from W.A.T.C.H.—Watch Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc.—are cautioning us about this year. They’ve been working hard to keep kids safe for over forty years and say that 2014’s list typify many of the problems they keep uncovering.
Says James Swartz, the organization’s director, “There’s no reason, after all these years, we should have toys like this. We shouldn’t be finding these things for manufacturers. They should be designing them appropriately in the first place.”
W.A.T.C.H.’s bottom line: “We are warning parents not to assume the toys they buy are safe. Many consumers are under the impression that heightened public attention to toy safety, increased government regulations and screening by big name manufacturers and retailers have eliminated hazards from toy store shelves—but this is not the case. The key message today it to let caregivers know that, while there are dangerous toys being sold in retail stores, awareness this holiday season and year-round truly can save lives.”
That’s for sure, so don’t take their concerns lightly. Indeed, in the last 12 months, 17 toys were recalled for a total of 4,800,000 units. Moreover, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported that in 2012 alone, 265,000 toy-related injuries were reported, as were 11 toy-related deaths of children under 15. Plus, between 2010 and 2012, 47 such deaths occurred, so beware.
In other words, remember that marketing too often trumps safety, so be a savvy shopper and don’t be lured into buying potentially harmful toys for your kids, including these worst picks for 2014 from W.A.T.C.H.:
- Zing’s Air Storm Firetek Bow: Designed for kids 8 and older, this bow is sold with 3 “screaming whistle” arrows that can fly 145 feet. No wonder, then, that the packaging cautions against aiming at eyes, faces, people or animals. It also advises against playing with it in complete darkness.
- Radio Flyer’s Radio Flyer Ziggie: Made for kids 3 to 8, this 4-wheel cycle’s seat sits only 8 inches off the ground, too low to be visible to drivers. Moreover, buyers are warned that “continuous adult supervision is required” and that the rider should always wear a helmet and other safety gear. The kid on the package does not.
- Toysmith’s Catapencil: Marketed to kids of all ages, this miniature slingshot-style launcher actually shoots pencils yet comes with no warnings whatsoever, except to use it as “target practice for your desktop.”
- Skip Hop’s Alphabet Zoo Rock & Stack Pull Toy: Recommended for little ones 18 months and older, this pull toy advises adult supervision and warns against its use by children any younger than 18 months because of a strangulation danger. That’s because, although the industry requires toy strings be less than 12 inches long, this one is about 20 inches.
- Junxing Toys’ Swat Electric Machine Gun: This inexpensive gun is marketed to kids 5 and older and looks like the real thing, which is unsettling to say the least. The packaging actually warns that it be used for amusement only and not aimed at living things.
- Walmart’s Wooden Instruments: Although marketed for children as young as 12 months, this item comes with no warnings, even though the 4-1/2-inch long drumstick poses a potential choking hazard.
- Norman & Globus’s Bottle Rocket Party: Aimed at kids 8 and older, the packaging warns that “use of projectiles may be harmful if misused” and calls for strict adult supervision. And while it comes with yellow caution tape, the required safety goggles are not included.
- JC Toys’ Lil’ Cutesies—Best Friends: These dolls are marketed to children two years old and up, and parents are advised to discard all packaging tags, ties, and mounting accessories for safety’s sake. Plus, the decorative ribbon bow can come off turning it into a choking hazard.
- Toys “R” Us’s True Legends Orcs Battle Hammer: This hard plastic battle hammer is almost 2 feet long, yet it comes with no warnings despite its “potential for blunt impact injuries.”
- Toys “R” Us’s Colored Hedgehog: Designed for infants, this soft, colorful hedgehog has long, fiber-like hair that’s easily pulled out and can be ingested or inhaled. Nevertheless, it comes with no warnings except to advise the removal of all tags before giving it to a child.
The bottom line: Danger lurks, so, for safety’s sake, take heed and be sure not to drop any of these toys—or any others that are potentially harmful—in your shopping cart, thus ensuring the merry and happy in your holiday.