Choose safe, age-appropriate holiday toys

By Joan Hunt - ReminderNews Managing Editor
- posted Wed., Nov. 16, 2011
- Contributed Photo

There are few things more gratifying for a parent than being able to provide the holiday gift that lights up a child’s eyes. It is still important, however, to consider the toy’s safety and its appropriateness with regard to the age of the child. While most of us know better than to buy a metal-tipped dart board for a toddler (manufacturers do sell a child-appropriate dartboard game that has no sharp parts, but provides the same challenge), sometimes the distinctions aren’t as clear-cut between a toy that would be perfectly safe and one that might not.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2010, there were an estimated 140,700 emergency room-treated injuries related to toys among children. Strict safety standards are regulated through the CPSC, requiring toy manufacturers to label certain toys that could be hazardous to young children and provide a recommended age of child to be using the toy. Be sure to look for those labels on the toys you buy. The CPSC cautions, however, to use your own judgment, because you know your child’s maturity level and can best decide if the toy is suitable or not.

Here is a short list of top toys to take into consideration:

•Non-motorized scooters and riding toys. Helmets and safety gear, including elbow and knee pads should be worn properly at all times and be sized to fit the child.

•Small balls, coins and toys with small parts – government regulations specify that toys for children under the age of 3 cannot have parts less than one and one-quarter inches in diameter and two and one-quarter inches long, as these small objects can pose a choking risk. Any ball with a diameter of one and one-quarter inches or less should not be given to a young child.

•Balloons that are deflated or broken are another choking risk. Deflated balloons should be kept away from children younger than 8 years old, and broken balloons and the balloon string should be immediately discarded.

•Art materials. Crayons, paint and other art items should not be given to children under the age of 3. Make sure art supplies are non-toxic and marked ASTMD-4236 to indicate the product has been reviewed by the American Society for Testing Materials. Products that conform to D-4236 have been tested for toxicity. However, this does not mean they are non-toxic, but rather any toxins contained within the product are listed on the packaging.

•Chargers, batteries and adapters can pose electrical and burn dangers to children of all ages. Special attention should be given to instructions and warnings.

•Play swords, guns and other weapons should be given only to mature, grade school age children and should be bright colors so they are easily differentiated from real weapons.

•Flying toys. Toys that are meant to be airborne can result in serious eye or head injury, if not used properly. It is recommended that children under 8 not play with projectile toys.

Shopping cautions posted by the CPSC include being aware of the store where you are purchasing toys. Second-hand stores and yard sales can save you money, but second-hand toys may be broken or defective, becoming dangerous. Without original packaging, age guidelines and warnings are not available. Also examine each toy carefully for cracks, paint chippings or leaking battery fluid.

For toys that produce sound, look for toys that have a volume level to protect children’s hearing. A noise rating may be listed on the product. If not, contact the toy manufacturer and request that information. An extremely loud toy for children is 90 decibels.

And, of course, remind children to keep their new toys as well as their old toys picked up, so nobody trips over them.

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