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Toy Safety: Expert Tips on Playing it Safe this Holiday Season

We may not know what the holidays will look like this year, but a well-chosen toy can still bring a smile of delight onto a little one’s face. However, toy-related injuries send 180,000 kids to the emergency department every year. Michelle Sterling, St. Joseph’s Children’s Wellness and Specialty Specialist, has eight tips for toy safety that you can keep in mind as you choose the perfect gift.

  1. Buy the right toy for the right age. Even if you think your child is advanced enough for or can soon grow into a toy for older kids, it may not be safe to give it to them until they reach the age mentioned on the packaging, usually because of internal components such as choking hazards. Read the instructions and warning labels to be aware of small parts. Sterling suggests this trick: See if the toy fits into a toilet paper holder. If it does, it’s a choking hazard. Put away older siblings’ toys safely in bins where crawlers can’t find them. (Bonus: This keeps your adult feet safe from the stray Lego or Barbie accessory.)
  2. When buying roller blades, skateboards, bicycles, tricycles or any wheeled or riding toy, make sure you also purchase a helmet and any other safety equipment, such as elbow and knee pads. Ensure helmets fit correctly. The helmet should start no more than two finger widths above the eyebrows and straps should make a “v” around the ears. You should be able to fit no more than one finger between the chin and chin strap.
  3. Many fun toys come with batteries, some of which are tiny and easily swallowed. Regardless of size, keep batteries stored safely away and out of children’s reach.
  4. Research online to make sure that toys are safe and non-toxic. Some that are made outside the United States may not have the same safety standards for lead-free paint, for example.
  5. The magnets in toys meant for small children are weaker than those meant for older kids or adults. Keep that magnetic desk accessory for your teen out of your toddler’s reach. They can be extremely dangerous if the magnet falls out and is swallowed.
  6. Especially if you are purchasing a second-hand or used toy, make sure that the item has not been recalled by researching it on safekids.org. Recalls never expire, so if you see your item on the list, that means you have the recalled version, which is not safe. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission also maintains a list.
  7. Some families like to purchase new furniture, televisions and other entertainment equipment during the holidays. Take advantage of the sales, but also purchase the wall mounting accessories to secure these items to the wall so they don’t tip over onto a crawling infant or toddler.
  8. For kids who have been sedentary and cooped up in front of screens e-learning and “e-socializing,” choose toys that encourage active play, such as hula hoops, jump ropes and cornhole games. Games that can be played together as a family are great ideas.

2020 has been the year of surprises, but a visit to the emergency room for a toy incident does not need to be one of them! Do your homework, then sit back and enjoy a safe and fun holiday.

Anu Varma Panchal
Anu Varma Panchal
Associate Editor Anu Varma Panchal has a master’s degrees in journalism and more than 15 years of experience writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Iowa and Florida. She has lived in Florida for more than 10 years, and enjoys raising her two daughters in Tampa Bay. When Anu isn’t writing or editing for area publications, she’s busy driving her kids to all their music and dance activities. She volunteers regularly in her daughters’ schools and Parent Teacher Associations, and spent a wonderful two years immersed in local history as a volunteer in the Tampa Bay History Museum’s Collections department. Although her idea of the ultimate good time is usually found between the pages of a book, Anu also enjoys yoga, her book club, travel, theater and area food and music festivals.

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