Because those little hands have an ever expanding range, make sure no small objects are with-in the strike zone of your tot. You should purge items with small parts before your child is mobile because babies are ninja masters at putting anything and everything into their mouth.
Why is baby proofing for small parts important? Small parts can block a child’s air passageway and lead to death. It’s a big deal.
The truth is keeping everything the appropriate size and age grade for your little tot can get tricky when you have younger & older siblings in the home or simply by picking up party favors at kiddo’s parties. I will confess I have failed at this before. For my son’s 1 year birthday I got him a small monster truck and motorcycles from a product line I used to work on. It turns out they had small parts warnings. These things happen to the best of us so I want you to be armed with the best information possible to make your home a little safer!
So what are small parts? Well besides the “duh” obviousness of tiny items, small parts can also be sub-components of common things you find around the house like toys age graded for 3 to 6 year olds. What that means is that if a toy is pulled and yanked on, small pieces can come loose and then become a choking hazard. So just because a toy is big, it doesn’t mean it can’t still have small parts. In fact the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) found that in 2010, “9 of the 17 toy-related deaths were associated with young children swallowing balloons, small balls and parts of toys or games”. Boo.
The great news is that we have incredibly high regulations and safety standards around toys and other juvenile products. Products are submitted to 3rd party laboratories to ensure they are designed to the latest safety standards, requirements and warning labeling. For example, toys will have a “Small Parts Warning” displayed on the packaging and age grade of 3+ years.
Unfortunately, other products that aren’t made for kids don’t always go through the same strenuous testing requirements. Small fridge magnets holding up your mini's first work of art can be double whammy scary not only from a choaking hazard standpoint but also because if two magnets are swallowed they can connect in the child’s digestive tract and cause a HUGE health risks requiring emergency intervention.
Choking hazards can be more inconspicuous items too. I always forget about change on the floor and old dried up food… er, I mean my floors are spotless. And don’t forget things like button battery cells and AA and AAA batteries that are in many household items like TV remote controls.
Proofing Exercise: Fear not, here’s a home hack baby proofing tip to screen for small parts items AND you get to get your craft on. This takes 1 minute tops and all you need is a piece of paper, ruler, scissors and tape.
For a little background, most safety sites recommend using a toilet paper roll to simulate a 3 year old’s air passageway. Basically, if the item slides through the tube, that item should have a first class ticket to Seeyalaterzville. Yes that’s a quick and easy rule of thumb BUT did you know that the toilet paper roll is slightly too large? It turns out a toddler's throat is actually smaller in diameter and length than the TP tube so testing it could be misleading.
The safety testing standard is 2.25 inches long by 1.25 inches wide. For context, that’s a little wider than the size of a quarter.
Instructions: Cut your piece of paper into a square 2.25” by 2.25” in length. Role the paper and use the ruler to make sure that the diameter is 1.25” wide and secure this with a piece of tape. Voila! Super simple and takes all of 1 minute to get a small parts tester tube.
You now have a testing tube the same size as the 3rd party labs and more knowledge on choking hazards than you ever imagined.