Have you finished clearing out the unsafe bedding your baby's crib yet? Good -- you should probably start going through the toy box next.
That's because according to a new study published in Clinical Pediatrics, the number of toy-related injuries has jumped nearly 40 percent in recent years, based on statistics taken in emergency rooms between 1990-2011. To give you some perspective, there were roughly 3.2 million children who were treated in an ER for a toy-related injury during that time. Slightly more than half of those kids were under the age of 6.
What's worse, experts believe those alarmingly high numbers are just the tip of the iceberg. "We know that's an underestimate. We know that those numbers are increasing," Dr. Gary Smith, the study's lead researcher and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, told CNN.com. "So it's a call to action. We really do have a lot more work to do to provide safe toys for children."
Ride-on toys, like scooters, were responsible for a big chunk of those hospital visits -- 34.9 percent, to be exact. And based on the number of kids zipping around my neighborhood like Evel Knievel without a helmet, it's not hard to see why. In fact, my colleague Diane Debrovner recently named it "the most dangerous toy."
But the under-3 set is hardly in the clear. The number and the rate of toy-related injuries peaked around age 2, the study found. Products with small parts pose the biggest threat, since they're a potential choking hazard. Recalled toys are also a possible issue. "For younger children, kids under 5, they spend most of their time in the home, and so it's toys found indoors, in the home, that are the major source of injury," Dr. Smith said.
Before you chuck the toy box out the window and cancel holiday gift-giving this year, know this: There are plenty of ways to keep your baby out of harm's way. Stay up-to-date on recalled toys by checking Recalls.gov. Follow manufacturer's instructions when assembling a toy. Only let baby play with toys that are age-appropriate. Inspect hand-me-downs for broken parts, sharp edges, magnetic or small pieces, and overall safety. And be there during playtime, so you can nip any potential problems in the bud. A little extra vigilance now can offer invaluable peace of mind down the road.
Product Recalls: What to Do
Image of baby with toy courtesy of Shutterstock