Monday, December 3, 2012

Protecting Family-National Toy Safety Month

New Toy
Always inspect your child's new toy for any dangerous parts.

December is National Safe Toys Month, which is perfect timing since some of you may be wondering what kind of Christmas presents to get a special little person in your life this year. 

Whether it's your own child, a grandchild, niece, nephew, or just a family friend you may want to check into what is age appropriate for that child. Most toys have recommended ages listed right on the box to help you decide what is age appropriate. It's important to pay attention to this information because a toy can cause harm to a child if it isn't intended for their age. 

With thousands of new toys coming out every year we can get a bit overwhelmed with what toys are appropriate for each age group. The best way to find out about a new toy is to read reviews to help you understand what it is and if it fits your child's age. This can be time consuming; and, if you are like me, time is what you are lacking the most during the holiday season! But in the long run it will be well worth it.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that consumers should be aware of lead hazards in some toys. Imported toys as well as toys made in the US can contain lead hazards. For instance, the use of lead in plastics is regulated in the US, but it is not completely banned. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues recalls on children's toys that are unsafe. 

Choosing Toys With Safety In Mind lists some tips to keep in mind when shopping for safe toys for kids. 
  • Stuffed or fabric toys should be washable and flame-resistant.
  • Look for the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) seal on electrical toys. This seal will tell you if it has been tested for safety.
  • Look for toys without sharp edges and small parts. 
  • Painted toys should say lead-free on them.  
  • Make sure toys are labeled non-toxic.
Safety Solutions For Old and New Toys
  • Always check used toys to see if there are any hazards.  A toy may end up with a sharp edge due to a child breaking it or a splintered edge if it is a wooden toy.
  • Read all of the instructions and explain them to children. This can be tedious but after running a preschool/daycare, I've seen children turn things like a hoola hoop into a lasso to round up his friends and a shovel instantly turned into a sword. Making sure kids understand how the toy should be used could avoid injury later.
  • Keep toy shelving safe. Make sure your child can reach their toys safely and that the shelves are sturdy so they don't collapse when a child is reaching for a toy.
  • Keep their toy chest safe. Make sure there are no sharp edges. The lid should be light and have a hinge that catches so it can't slam down on their fingers. There should also be some kind of ventilation since a lot of kids love to play hide and seek and this is always a favorite spot for them.
I owned and ran a preschool/childcare over the past twenty years and I have seen a lot of toys come and go.  I decided to make a list of toys that I have noticed are played with the most and are the safest. One of my favorite toys for kids are the Little People products by Fischer-Price. They are safer for little ones because they are chunky with no small parts and they really keep a child's interest. 

new toy
Toys without small pieces and sharp
edges are safer for small children. lists the types of toys that are appropriate by age group. They also give numerous tips for picking out the safest toys for your child. For example, they advise to avoid toys that contain small magnets. The CPSC named magnets as the number one hazard for children in households. If a child swallows two small magnets, or a magnet and a small piece of metal, the two objects can attach to each other and cause a blockage in the intestine, or cause twisting or pinching of the intestinal wall.

Picking a toy shouldn't be that difficult but in this day and age it has become a tough thing to do. Since 1970 there have been 1,500 hazardous toys that have been removed from store selves. Manufactures, distributors, and retailers have a legal responsibility to make sure they aren't selling dangerous toys. Although toys are inspected thoroughly there are still some toys that slip through the cracks. We may not know it poses a safety issue until someone gets hurt and there is a recall. The number one way to make sure a toy is safe is inspect it yourself.  Keep your child safe this Christmas and the whole year by always inspecting old and new toys. 

Marci Psalmonds
Contributing Writer

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