With the holidays approaching, families have been shopping for some information in regard to buying safe toys for their children this year. Well, fortunately, I have a direct line to Santa who is the expert when it comes to safe toys, and he wanted me to share with you the following information:

Read labels

First, please read the labels before buying any toy to learn about what ages the toy is safe for, how to use it, whether adult supervision is recommended for assembly or use, and to make sure toxins or chemicals like lead, have not been used in making the toy. 

Think big

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

Avoid small objects

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

Check for sturdiness

You also want to make sure a toy is sturdy. Parts of a stuffed animal for example should be sewn on securely and that same stuffed animal should be washable and made with flame resistant or flame retardant materials. 

No strings attached

Infant toys should not have strings or wires longer than 7 inches that an infant can get caught on or around and accidentally strangle themselves. 

So after all that, what kind of toy should you get? I’ll make some recommendations that I believe will play well with you and your child.  If you have any concerns about a toy, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission web site www.cpsc.gov to see if a particular toy has a problem or has been recalled.

Hopefully, tips like these 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 University of Vermont College of Medicine. 

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