Parents in Action: Choosing safe toys for gifts

Kids waste no time compiling their holiday wish list.  Some kids may be looking for the hottest electronics and others may be craving a new bike.  Regardless of what they're asking for this season it's important that parents do some investigating about each item to make sure that its safe for kids.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 217,000 children are treated annually for toy-related injuries; nearly half of these children are younger than 5. Choosing appropriate toys, combined with parental supervision can greatly reduce the number and severity of injuries from toys.

Here are a few steps to choosing the right toys.

Things to Look Out For

Toys with lead-based paints have been a concern in more recent years but ceramic and pottery toys made outside the U.S. and Europe have also been shown to contain lead as well. Avoid toys with small parts and more importantly magnetic pieces. If magnets are ingested they can cause serious damage and blockage in the intestine resulting in injury or even death if not caught right away.

Items with heating elements and long electrical cables should be avoided for potential burns. Toys with strings, straps of power cables longer than 7-inches can easily become choking hazards for kids.

Safety First

Its great for kids to spend time outside but if you plan on purchasing a bike, skateboard or any other outdoor equipment it's important that you invest in the safety equipment as well. Make sure that your kids have all of the appropriate riding equipment including a helmet, reflectors and elbow/knee pads. Your kids may be reluctant to wear the safety equipment but it's important that you don't cave.  Using the equipment can reduce the risk of injury by 85 percent.

Read the Label

Experts advise that parents keep a close eye on package labels but also warn of being deceived by voluntary manufacturers' labels that can include items like "toxic-free" and "lead-free". Before you buy look out for toys that contain "phthalates" or toxic chemicals, which can cause severe health problems if ingested.

Age labels are important as well. If a toy says its suitable for children older 4, it doesn't mean that your 2 year old won't be able to figure it out. Rather the age label is warning of smaller parts of sharp edges that could hurt your younger kids.

Choosing suitable toys for your kids varies on different factors. If you're not sure about a particular product, you can always visit for monthly recalls and other information about goods for your family.


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