How to Buy Safe Toys
Make sure the gifts your kids unwrap this year won't hurt them
Unless the Grinch manages to steal Christmas, the holiday will likely come with tags, with ribbons, with packages, boxes and bags. And inside those boxes and bags will be presents for the kids.
No matter what holiday you're shopping for, make sure the gifts are safe and non-toxic. Because at least with older kids, they'll play with the toy and not just the box it came in.
Follow age recommendations. Many toy labels suggest a minimum age. Those recommendations don’t indicate how smart a kid needs to be to enjoy the toy but rather the stage of development that's appropriate for safe play.
If you’re buying a gift for a baby or toddler, don’t buy a toy for kids 6 and up. “Some toys are too small for these children, and they could choke on a small part,” Drengenberg says. “Use the cardboard roll that remains after the toilet paper is used up. If the toy or part fits through the roll, it is too small.”
If you have both younger and older kids, Drengenberg advises this: “Find some way to keep the small toys away from the younger child. That might mean putting those toys in the older child’s bedroom, and keeping that door closed.”
Look for these labels. Toys made with fabric should be labeled flame resistant or flame retardant, according to KidsHealth. Stuffed toys should be machine washable, and art materials should be labeled nontoxic.
Take note of the noise. Electronic toys or ones that play music can get loud — as loud as a car horn — especially if a child holds it to her ear, according to KidsHealth. If you're buying a gift for someone else's kid, the parents will probably thank you for buying something silent.
Understand the risks. Scooters were wildly popular in recent years, but they're also responsible for a 40 percent increase in toy-related injuries over the past few decades, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Pediatrics. If you decide to buy your child a scooter, skateboard or something similar, also buy the safety equipment (helmet and pads) he'll need.
Look for safer lasers. A laser beam in the eye can cause permanent damage to a child's eyesight, and some manufacturers don't use the kind of "safer" lasers the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends for use in toys. If you buy a toy with a laser, make sure the label indicates it complies with 21 CFR Subchapter J or says “21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11.”
Check for recalls. Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled some children’s toys over lead paint concerns. A quick Internet search or a visit to the CPSC website should tell you if a toy has been recalled and why. If you have a toy that's been recalled, return it to the store or throw it away.
Have an adult assemble the toy. Little Jane can’t wait to play with her new dollhouse, but there’s some assembly required using small parts (nuts and bolts, screws and other hardware, for example). “Make sure a responsible adult puts it together,” Drengenberg says. After the holidays, check toys periodically to be sure all screws and other hardware have not loosened, he adds.
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