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. He wanted me to share with you the following information.

Please read the labels before buying any toy. This will help you learn how age-appropriate it is, 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 when it comes to buying a toy – bigger than your child’s mouth, so as to prevent choking. And again, check labels or the toy itself to make sure there are no small parts that can be choking hazards. 

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

Make sure the toy is sturdy, including secure parts, seams and edges. Make sure a stuffed toy is also flame resistant or flame retardant and washable. Also, make sure older children put their toys with small parts away so smaller children cannot find them.

Infant toys should not have strings or wires longer than seven inches, which can be a hazard for children tripping and falling or strangling themselves.

So after all that, what kind of toy should you get? Choose toys that are based on the developmental level of your child.  Your child’s health care provider can make suggestions specific that developmental level. All you need to do is ask. If you have any concerns about a toy, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission web site www.cpsc.gov to see if it 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 for the holidays.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. 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 www.uvmhealth.org/firstwithkids.

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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