If you’re looking to get a fun gift for your kids, you might be thinking of getting them a set of magnets. Magnets can be fun kinetic objects and children often enjoy the tactile physicality of playing with small magnets. However, unlike normal toys, magnets don’t have any special warnings about their small size or how easy it is for a small child to swallow them.
In fact, magnet ingestion numbers have been on the upswing recently. Small, strong magnets are not marketed as toys at all, but due to their inherent danger to children should they be ingested. Thanks to their metallic construction and magnetic properties, these small objects can cause serious injuries if ingested.
It’s important to remember that magnets, even ones that look like fun little fidget toys, aren’t toys and they aren’t for kids. If your child is under 14, they ideally should not be getting such a small, easily ingested toy for a holiday gift. They look very fun to play with, and so young children often ask for them for holiday presents.
However, a recent study headed by Dr. Michael Flaherty showed a dramatic increase in injuries from ingesting small magnets from 2016 to 2019. The team found that, from 2009 to 2019, in a sample size of 37,000 emergency visits of persons under 18, some 1,400 involved the ingestion of small magnets. Almost 850 of those visits were children under the age of 6. In the years between 2012 and 2016, when a ban against small, powerful magnet sets was in place, the number of emergency room visits was much lower.
However, following the unbanning of these magnet sets, the number of hospital visits resulting from magnet inhalation or ingestion increased dramatically again.
If there are children under 14 in your home, it’s recommended that you simply do not purchase any of these small magnet sets. It only takes ingesting a few of these magnets to cause serious injury. If they want magnetic toys to play with, there are options for child-safe magnets that are not small enough to be placed in the mouth and ingested.
More age-appropriate magnet toys can be found in toy stores, and they’re often encased in large plastic housing and significantly more difficult for a child to swallow. In these toys, the magnets have been proved to be hard to dislodge from their plastic housing, making them safe for general use as toys for children.