My children love balloons. When I was first potty training my daughter I tried the sticker chart and the potty songs and videos, but nothing worked. A few months later I tried balloons as rewards. Before long our whole house was full of balloons and our daughter was using the potty on her own. This was before I learned the dangers of balloons.
When my son turned one I brought him to a playmate’s birthday party and was surprised when one of the moms refused a balloon. There were balloons everywhere, and all of the toddlers were taking at least one home. Before she left empty handed this friend shared a story of a baby who had died in her sleep hours after a birthday party. An autopsy showed the baby had swallowed a broken balloon. Sadly, this was not an isolated event. A study conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh concluded that balloons cause more deaths from choking than any other toy, including marbles.
And it’s not just broken balloons that are dangerous. My 4 year old daughter received an uninflated balloon in a loot bag at the last party she attended. Though she knows to throw out a broken balloon as soon as it pops, she sat in her car seat as we drove away from the party and tried to blow one up. We think of 3 and unders when we discuss chokables such as marbles, but research shows that children 3-6 year olds are often the ones who inhale balloons while trying to inflate them.
I wrote this post mainly as a reminder to myself. Do I know balloons are dangerous? Yes. Have I, at times, chosen to ignore the warnings and let balloons get out of hand in our house, making it impossible for me to safely monitor their status? Yes. Did I know that balloons caused more choking deaths than any other toy? No, not until today. I would never let my two year old play with marbles, so this bad balloon habit has got to change. The other day I caught myself offering my son a balloon after he used the potty. There were already a few floating around downstairs from Grandma’s birthday. Today I’ve disposed of the lingering ones and moved the bag of balloons. Ashamedly it was in a drawer he could reach.
Safety Tip: Most balloons are latex and therefore biodegradable. While broken ones can be mixed into compost, it is important that they are not in a child or animal’s view after disposal. A broken or half deflated balloon at the top of a trash can or compost pile is tempting to a child who wants to mimic an adult by trying to blow it back up or test it as chewing gum.
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Image: flikr user Thomas Hawk under a Creative Commons License
[This post was written by Tara Benwell.]