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Give a young child a balloon and they'll play with it for hours - what is it about balloons that makes them love them so?! Well, the clues are that balloons are usually brightly coloured, large and they have very peculiar properties when compared to most other familiar objects!
The texture of an inflated balloon is interesting - although shiny and smooth, it doesn't feel smooth. Rub your fingers on a balloon and they are met with resistance, producing a very particular scratchy noise. Although an inflated balloon is big, it doesn't have the mass that makes most similar sized objects easy to throw. Throw a blown up balloon really hard and your little one will be lucky to reach the other side of the room. This lightness makes for a relatively safe toy to throw and kick around indoors. Helium balloons are even more weird- what else in a child's experience goes up rather than down! Balloons are just so extraordinarily different to most other things.
Why Does a Balloon Pop When it is Burst?
Of course, there is also a down side to balloons...bursting a balloon can lead to tears for two reasons, first the child has just lost a great toy, but the BANG of a bursting balloon can also frighten a young child. An inflated balloon is stretched right out of shape compared to its original limp state. The rubber of an inflated balloon is charged with elastic energy. When a balloon is burst, that energy is discharged as sound and heat. The additional heat of the dispersed energy will go unnoticed, but the sound will be heard several rooms away!
Balloons Present a Choking Hazard
Do be aware that deflated balloons and shards from a burst balloon present a serious choking hazard. If a child tries to blow up a balloon, or chews on fragments of a burst balloon, then there is a possibility that the child will inhale the balloon into their mouth and it could be drawn down further by the lungs. If the rubber enters the throat then it can mold to the shape of the throat, completely blocking the airway. The natural response to suffocation is to inhale more urgently, and this will make matters worse for a child.
Always make sure that an adult is nearby should a young baby or toddler be playing with a balloon, and never let them play with a deflated balloon. Children WILL put deflated balloons in their mouths because they have seen you blowing them up and want to do this themselves.