Parents spend a lot of time making sure their kids can’t access things that could be dangerous – from button batteries to household cleaners and everything in between. Something like a flying fairy toy, on the other hand, might seem pretty safe.
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with at least one hot toy this holiday season and many others before it.
Most recently, reports have come out about a flying fairy toy that caught fire for at least two customers. The “Beautiful Flying Fairy” toy, sold on Amazon and by other retailers, “just erupted into flames” one day, a grandparent told ABC News 11.
“She just blew up,” Beth Banes, who bought the toy for her granddaughter and was testing it at the time, told the news outlet. “There was no pre-warning of something smelling hot; I saw no smoke – just erupted into flames.”
A mom from Michigan had the same issue with the flying fairy toy, the station reports.
While it’s unclear whether this specific toy has been recalled, parents may have heard about similar problems and subsequent recalls with items such as fidget spinners and hoverboards. So how can parents make sure their kids’ toys are safe?
It’s a matter of taking the right precautions – and, importantly, providing the right amount of supervision, says Julie Everitt, owner Whistle Stop Hobby & Toy in St. Clair Shores and a mom of two. While she doesn’t sell the flying fairy toy, there are some general safety tips parents can keep in mind.
“Every toy needs some parental supervision, in the beginning at least,” she says. “With a spinning toy like a drone or a propelled, pull-a-string toy, you should always make sure there’s parental supervision.”
Here’s a look at seven key tips to consider to make sure your kids’ toys are safe.
1. Be careful when charging
In response to the hoverboard fire risk, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission put out a safety alert for parents that included advice on charging the devices.
“Only charge a hoverboard when you are there to watch it. Do not charge unattended, especially overnight,” the CPSC recommends.
Also be sure to only use the correct charger that came with the item; not chargers for other devices.
2. Always supervise use
“Supervise the use of any electrical product,” the CPSC emphasizes in a safety alert on electronic toys. “Just how much supervision is necessary is again a matter of judgment. Consider both the maturity of the child and the nature of the toy.”
To help prevent electrical shock, parents should make sure that plugs fit snugly into wall outlets and that no prongs are exposed.
“Teach children always to disconnect an electrical appliance after use by grasping the plug, not by pulling on the cord,” the alert recommends.
3. Watch out for counterfeit and recalled products
Counterfeit toys made the news recently after some parents realized they mistakenly ordered a toy made to look just like a Fingerling, one of the holiday season’s hottest items. Instead they received low-quality imitations, which didn’t have paperwork proving they met the proper safety standards, Huffington Post reports.
Counterfeit toys could also have unsafe levels of lead or other toxins.
Also watch for recalls; parents can stay up to date by checking the CPSC’s recall website here.
4. Shop local when you can
It can also help to shop local, independent toy stores where the staff may be more familiar with the products offered.
“Can you see it, can you touch it?” Everitt says, and they’re responsive to any parent questions or concerns about product origins. “I train our employees to cherish each customer that comes in. Each customer gets a one-on-one experience with the employees and they get to have all their questions answered … We will go that extra mile to call the company, see where they get their products.”
5. Follow instructions and use guidelines
Problems with toys often occur when they are used incorrectly. The American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to read the label and instructions every time your child gets something new.
“Warning labels give important information about how to use a toy and what ages it is for. Be sure to show your child how to use the toy,” the AAP advises.
6. Keep it age-appropriate
To help lower the risk of electric shock or burns, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids under age 10 not be given any toys that need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. “Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated,” the AAP recommends, keeping in mind battery hazards as well.
Age guidelines are also in place due to choking concerns.
“With any child 3 and under, you should be really cautious about what’s in each package,” Everitt says. “Make sure the age limit is appropriate because you turn your back for one second, and you never want anything like that to happen like a choking situation.”
7. Check out reviews, ask other parents
As a parent, Everitt tends to rely on product reviews and input from other parents when trying to research a toy she’s considering.
“I usually check the comments but the only thing is a lot of people only comment when it’s a negative situation, so you kind of have to take that with a grain of salt,” she says. “I also lean on the local support groups like mom swap pages. A lot of times I’ll throw it out there, ‘Does anyone know anything about the hoverboards or what’s a good brand?’ (for example). I usually trust the parents’ experiences first-hand locally more than anything.”
Also look into the company that makes the toy and whether they’re responsive to issues.
“You really have to follow your gut, you have to weigh the good and the bad,” Everitt adds. “Being that we’re in a small community here, I stick with community support groups and see what other parents feel about it.”