Don't Toy with Safety

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:

1. 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 have not been used in making the toy.

2. Think big when it comes to buying a toy - I mean bigger than your child's mouth so as to prevent choking. Check labels to make sure there are no small parts that can be choking hazards.

3. Avoid toys that shoot small objects into the air to avoid choking or eye injuries (they do occur) and avoid toys that make loud or shrill noises that can damage their hearing.

4. Make sure the toy is sturdy by checking that parts are sewn on well and that seams and edges are secure. Make sure stuffed toys are flame resistant or flame retardant and washable.

5. Crib toys should not have strings or wires longer than 12 inches that a child can strangle or choke on.

So after all that, what kind of toy should you get? Choose toys that are based on the developmental level of your child - toys that their physical and mental abilities will allow them to use appropriately. Your pediatrician can make suggestions specific to the age and developmental level of your child. All you have to do is ask. And don't forget that books make great gifts for children (and adults) of all ages.

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. Happy shopping!

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. 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 http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids

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