With the holidays approaching, families have been shopping for some information about buying safe toys for their children this year. Fortunately, I have a direct line to Santa, who is the expert when it comes to safe toys. He wants me to share with you the following information:

First, please read the labels before buying any toy. The label should tell you to what ages the toy is safe for, how to use it, whether adult supervision is recommended for assembly or use. You also want to make sure toxins or chemicals like lead have not been used in making the toy.

Think big when it comes to buying a toy: any toy should be bigger than your child’s mouth to prevent choking. Double-check labels to make sure there are no small parts that can be choking hazards. Older children should put their toys with small parts away so smaller children cannot find them for just the same reason.

Avoid toys that shoot small objects into the air to avoid choking or eye injuries (they do occur). Avoid toys that make loud or shrill noises that can potentially damage hearing. Make sure batteries in battery-powered toys are secured so small children can’t get them open and choke or swallow them, which would be a medical emergency.

Make sure a toy is sturdy. For example, the parts of a stuffed animal should be sewn on securely and that same stuffed animal should be washable and made with flame-resistant or flame-retardant materials.

Crib toys should not have strings or wires longer than seven inches, so an infant cannot get caught on or around the wires and accidentally strangle themselves.

So after all that, what kind of toy should you get for your child? Choose toys that are based on the developmental level of your child. Your pediatrician can make suggestions specific to the age and developmental level of your child: all you need to do is ask. And don’t forget that a book makes a great gift for children of all ages.

If you have any concerns about a toy, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at www.cpsc.gov to see if a particular toy has a problem or has been recalled.

Hopefully, tips like this will wrap up any concerns you have when it comes to giving your child the gift of a safe toy.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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