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Unwrap the Gift of Toy Safety

The biggest threat to the health of children older than 1 is not a dread disease. It's accidental injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year nearly 230,000 children suffer injuries from toys severe enough to be treated in a hospital emergency room. Nearly 40 percent of those injured are younger than 5.

Your challenge is to find toys that your children will enjoy and that you know are safe.

These simple guidelines can help keep the holiday season safe for your youngsters:

  • Avoid toys that shoot or have parts that fly off.

  • Choose toys made of durable materials with no sharp edges or points.

  • Don't give young children toys with small parts. Youngsters tend to put things in their mouths, increasing the risk of choking.

  • Choose age-appropriate toys. Age labeling is provided for developmental and safety reasons.

  • Select toys to suit a child's abilities, skill, and interest level.

  • To avoid serious ear injury, don't buy toys that make loud or shrill noise.

  • Choose well-made stuffed animals. The eyes, noses, and other small parts should be fastened securely.

  • Never buy hobby kits, such as chemistry sets, for children younger than age 12.

  • Look for the letters "ASTM," which indicate a toy or product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Tips to avoid playtime mishaps

  • Explain and demonstrate how to use toys.

  • Keep toys for older children away from younger ones.

  • Discard packaging immediately. Sharp staples and plastic bags can cause injuries and pose safety hazards.

  • Make sure children play in safe areas and, if appropriate, under supervision.

  • Make a list of safety rules and share them with your children. If your youngsters are playing with friends, remind everyone of your safety rules.

  • Inspect older toys for broken or sharp edges, loose parts, and loose strings or ribbons.