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Christmas toys: Keep the season safe

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Submitted by Rita Hodges County Extension Agent

People have already been ‘hitting the stores’ in search of that perfect holiday gift for that perfect little angel in your life.

Every toy-shopping adult know that finding just the right child’s give can be time consuming. Toys vary from season to season and age to age, but the most ‘trendy toys’ aren’t always the best or safest.

Giving children safe toys is vital.  Nowhere is this more critical than with the classic American holiday gift—the bicycle—and other riding toys.

According to figures from the Texas Department of Health, Product Safety Division, each year about 300 deaths and 400,000 injuries in children younger than 15 are associated with bicycles.  Another item in recent years has been the razor scooter—another wheeled riding toy designed for children.  But we see 100,000 injuries annually associated with scooters.

As far as the ever-popular inline skates, old-fashioned roller skates, and skate boards are concerned, injuries just naturally occur when wheels are put on kids’ feet.  Many of the injuries and deaths can be prevented through the use of safety equipment designed for these young riders. 

Inline skates should be equipped with a safety helmet as well as wrist, elbow, knee and shin pads.  Protective gear is not just a bid for manufactures to try to get more money.  It is an important part of safety.

Another vital aspect of safety in children’s toys is age-appropriateness.  While infants and toddlers aren’t the best recipients for bicycles and inline skates, they do need toys designed for children their ages.  Adult shoppers should always keep age in mind when shopping for children.  Make sure to read the warning labels on toys for age recommendations.

Do not go by the child’s level of intelligence, but by his or her age.  A two-year-old child might be as smart as a five-year-old, but he’s still only two and he’s going to put buttons in his mouth, etc.

Do not buy any item with cords or strings for children younger than three years of age.  Cords can wrap around a child’s neck and strangle him or her.

For young gift-recipients, toys that will stimulate the brain development and motor coordination through bright colors, sounds and activities are recommended.

Make sure all pieces are large enough so that it can’t get lodged in a baby’s thoat. Never give children under age five toys with small parts, including marbles, small balls and balloons. As colorful and festive as they are, balloons, as well as these other items, are still a choking hazard for children.

As a general rule, buy toys with sturdy construction, and no small parts that can come loose or come apart.  Keep these recommendations in mind even if the child receiving the gift is older, but has smaller siblings in the house.

Children, who are older, up to about age eight, should still not receive any toys with sharp points or metal edges.  If you buy arrows or darts, make sure they have protective tips or suctions cups that stay secure.

Toys that operate through electricity or that have heating elements—such as woodworking sets or ovens—are not recommended for children younger than eight.

Parents and other adults should consider all the issues before deciding whether or not to purchase toy guns for their children.

Toy guns for children have been controversial for years.  But since 9/11, there is a heightened sense that toys guns might be mistaken for a real gun.

Whatever the age of the child or the kind of toy purchased, immediately discard any plastic wrapping or packaging the toy came in to prevent accidental choking or suffocation.

Shop with these four steps in mind: Follow label recommendations as to use of the toy and age appropriateness.

Eliminate choking hazards.

Include the right protective gear when purchasing riding toys.

Look for toys that are sturdy and will not come apart easily.

By shopping with these four steps in mind, adults can insure a safe, happy holiday season for their children.

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