Chances are that the toy accompanying your child's fast food meal is part of the allure. The small toys generally follow trends of what child-friendly movies are showing or are cheaper takes on popular toys that top the must-have lists of your child. While the food itself leaves something to be desired, kids' meal toys often pose risks of their own. Understanding the dangers helps you make healthy choices for your little one.
Most kids' meal toys are cheaply made, which is why fast food restaurants can give them away for free when a meal is purchased. When a toy is not put together well, it has an increased risk of breaking or falling apart, which can result in pieces that pose a choking risk to young children. Many such toys have been recalled after incidents occur, including a 2001 recall by Burger King, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This includes toys with wheels, spinning mechanisms and stuffed animals filled with small beads.
It surprises many parents to find that children's toys sometimes contain toxic materials. You might be skeptical about the risk from kids' meal toys, but small children are more susceptible to the effects of toxic chemicals because their bodies are smaller. Because young kids often put toys in their mouths, those made that contain them increase the danger. McDonald's recalled a set of "Shrek" character drinking glasses in 2007 because of high levels of cadmium, according to an Associated Press story picked up by the Huffington Post. In 2002, Halo Burger recalled battery-operated flashlights included in kids' meal, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The batteries could leak, which could irritate skin, and a disassembled flashlight has small parts that could be a choking hazard.
The toy might look harmless enough, but several pose the risk of injuries. Toys with sharp edges or pointy parts can poke, scrape or cut your child when she plays with them. If a toy breaks, it can also hurt your little one with jagged pieces. Toys that lock together can pinch your child and those with wheels that spin could hurt her skin if she runs them over her body and could get stuck in her hair if she drives them on her head. While reports of serious injuries due to kids' meal toys are scarce, it pays to take precautions because you never want your little one hurt by her toys.
You can't protect your child from every injury and you'll probably give in to her cries for fast food on occasion. Keeping her safe when she tears open the kids' meal toy takes a bit of vigilance on your part, but it pays off in dividends when she can safely play with her new toy without worry on your part. Before handing the toy over, read the safety precautions on the toy's packaging, suggests the International Ergonomics Association. The label warns parents of the potential hazards of the item so you're aware of the possibility of danger, such as choking or the presence of toxic substances. If the toy breaks or is otherwise damaged or is ever recalled, throw it away and find something else to play with.