You’ve probably heard stories about friends or strangers who wound up in the hospital from a toy-related injury. Perhaps you know a kid who got a Lego stuck in his nose. Or maybe you read an article about a parent who slipped on a toy car during a middle-of-the-night trip to the fridge.
There were nearly 165,000 toy injuries in 2020 that sent people to an emergency department, a 27% drop from 2019, according to a ValuePenguin analysis of National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) data. Quarantine measures and new lifestyle adjustments amid the coronavirus pandemic may have contributed to the decline.
And the most common source of toy injuries? That claim belongs to unpowered scooters.
- A decline in toy injuries could indicate toys are becoming safer over time. The number of toy injuries treated in emergency departments fell from 252,250 in 2011 to 164,715 in 2020 — a drop of 35%. The biggest year-over-year change outside of the pandemic was in 2018, when federal toy safety standards enacted by Congress were strengthened.
- The coronavirus pandemic appears to have had a significant impact on toy injuries. 27% fewer toy injuries were treated in 2020 than in 2019. Potential factors may include kids spending more time at home under closer supervision during quarantines and people staying away from hospitals amid outbreaks.
- Unpowered scooters are the most dangerous toy. There have been 477,082 injuries attributed to these nonmotorized scooters since 2011. Similar to the nationwide trend, there was a substantial drop in the number of related injuries reported in 2020 — 8,614, an 81% decrease from the year before.
- Among children, toddlers ages 1 to 3 are most likely to get injured by toys. Dating to 2016, children in this age range average about 20,000 toy-related injuries annually. Infants (children younger than 1) average closer to 6,000 yearly.
Toy injuries have declined sharply, so what’s happening?
Since 2011, there has been a 35% decline in emergency department treatment of toy injuries. Below is a year-by-year look at how the number of injuries transitioned from more than 250,000 in 2011 to nearly 165,000 in 2020.
Toy injuries by year
Source: National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database
After 2011, the number of injuries didn’t shift by more than 5% year over year until 2018. That year, the number of injuries dropped 11%. That coincides with the year toy safety standards enacted by Congress were updated.
First introduced in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, these standards relate to manufactured and imported toys used by children 12 and younger.
But the most significant drop in toy injuries occurred between 2019 and 2020. There were nearly 60,000 fewer ER-treated toy injuries in 2020 than in the previous year, a difference of 27%. Other injuries, such as those related to home improvement and maintenance, also declined in 2020.
The timing of the drop coincides with the Trump administration in March 2020 declaring the COVID-19 pandemic to be a national emergency. In the days and weeks and months to follow, various states issued stay-at-home orders to try to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus.
Nationwide quarantine measures and lifestyle adjustments could have contributed to a decline in toy injuries. Americans might also have sought treatment less often due to pandemic-related fears. According to NEJM Catalyst, emergency department patient volume in the U.S. was down by about 50% in May 2020 due to concerns about exposure to COVID-19.
If a toy in your home injures someone, homeowners insurance might cover related treatment or legal expenses. However, the nature of the injury matters. For example, if someone slips and falls in your home, you may not be liable unless negligence is involved. Look over the personal liability section of your homeowners policy for more details.
Most dangerous toy: Unpowered scooters
Unpowered scooters are the most dangerous toy, according to NEISS data.
Retailers and toymakers might also advertise these under names like kick scooters, Razor scooters, three-wheel scooters, kickboards, freestyle scooters and more.
Since 2011, 477,082 injuries have occurred on these types of nonmotorized devices.
However, the number of unpowered scooter injuries — like the number of toy-related injuries overall — is trending down. From 2011 to 2013, there were nearly 60,000 related injuries a year, on average. Yet between 2018 and 2020, that average went down by almost 50% to around 31,000 a year.
Unpowered scooter injuries by year
Source: National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database
In 2020, the number of unpowered scooter injuries plummeted by 81%. With kids generally unable to go outside and play with neighborhood friends amid the early phases of the pandemic, stay-at-home orders could help explain part of the drop.
But it’s also important to note that the NEISS changed its product code for how it tracked unpowered scooters in 2020. It’s unclear how this may have affected the system’s toy injury tracking.
Unpowered scooter injuries are most common among children 9 and younger. In 2019, for example, 21,950 injuries (among 45,376 total) happened to children in this age range.
Boys and men are also more likely than girls and women to injure themselves while using unpowered scooters. Between 2016 and 2020, boys and men sustained 47,187 more toy-related injuries in this category than girls and women.
But unpowered scooters aren’t the only source of toy injuries. Below is a look at other entries on the toy injury list between 2016 and 2020. (Note that some general categories — like "toys, not specified" — factor into overall toy injury figures in this study but aren’t included below.)
Toy injuries by product
|2||Balls, other or not specified||108,386||62,286||46,100|
|3||Toy vehicles (excluding riding toys)||59,712||42,756||16,956|
|5||Flying discs and boomerangs||35,913||26,539||9,374|
|6||Games or game parts (excluding marbles and computer games)||34,159||17,206||16,953|
|7||Dolls, plush toys and action figures||29,669||14,021||15,648|
|8||Toy boxes or chests||25,221||15,497||9,724|
Source: National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) database, 2016-20; the NEISS doesn’t include specific breakdowns in a given period when the estimate is less than 1,200
Toddlers most likely to get injured by toys
When considering infants to 12-year-olds, toddlers (ages 1 to 3) are most likely to experience a toy-related injury. Between 2016 and 2020, children in this age range had an annual average of nearly 60,000 toy-related injuries.
The number of yearly injuries starts to drop off for children once they turn 7 years old. Children experience around 9,300 toy injuries a year at age 7, compared with more than 20,000 annually at age 3. So parents may be able to start to relax a bit at this point.
Children aren’t the only ones getting injured by toys
Of course, young kids aren’t the only ones who suffer toy injuries. In 2020, 35% of toy-related injuries happened to people who were 10 and older, including:
- 17,081 injuries among people ages 10 to 19
- 9,517 injuries among people 20 to 29
- 9,975 injuries among people 30 to 39
- 7,124 injuries among people 40 to 49
- 5,715 injuries among people 50 to 59
- 4,446 injuries among people 60 to 69
- 2,362 injuries among people 70 to 79
- 2,234 injuries among people 80 and older
Analysts compiled data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) — available through the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission — to find the number of people treated in emergency departments for toy injuries.
Researchers looked at various periods between 2011 and 2020, breaking down the data by age, gender, year and product type. Note that the NEISS doesn’t include specific breakdowns in a given period when the estimate is less than 1,200.