The holidays should be a time for children’s imaginations to run wild and for them to experience the joy of receiving new toys. That’s why we encourage you to read through this information from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) before you finalize your child’s letter to Santa. In 2009, an estimated 250,100 children under age 15 were sent to the hospital for toy-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. And these injuries are on the rise.
The AAP offers these tips to help parents make safe consumer choices for their children:
- Make sure the toy is specified for the age of your child. Government regulations on toy diameter and length will prevent your baby or toddler from choking. Never leave a baby unattended with toys and games containing small parts.
- Toys that plug into an electrical outlet are a no-no children under 10. Prevent burns and electrical shocks by buying battery-operated toys for younger kids. Make sure that the battery is in a secured compartment that cannot be accessed by the child.
- Buttons, batteries, and magnets pose a serious health risk when swallowed, causing stomach and intestinal problems and possible death. Call your pediatrician or other health care provider immediately if your child swallows one of these items.
- Watch out for pull toys with strings more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
- Riding toys such as skate boards and bikes pose a risk of serious injuries, especially if the proper protective equipment like helmets and knee pads is not used.
- Read instructions carefully on a toy before allowing your child to play with it.
- Store toys in a designated location, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest, and keep older kids’ toys away from young children.
Choosing safe toys is the most important thing, but there are also ways you can make sure you’re picking a toy that your child will use.
- Emphasize the benefits of “true toys”, such as blocks and dolls, in which children use their imagination fully over passive toys that require limited imagination;
- For a baby, anything that is eye-catching or makes noise is a good choice.
- For an older child, whether it’s a board game, a magazine subscription, or the latest Justin Bieber record, something that will sustain his or her interest will make a meaningful gift.