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The holidays are upon us and a good chunk of us are enduring the hustle and bustle for toys—either for our own kids or others' kids.

With so many toys out there, it can be overwhelming deciding on an appropriate toy for each kid. But toys need not be a dirty, dreaded word. Arm yourself with some toy safety buying knowledge and you'll be on your way to being the supreme toy giver (unless you believe in Santa—no one can top him!).

When choosing toys, keep the child's age, interest and skill level in mind. Even if a child is advanced in a certain area, age recommendations are based on safety factors not intelligence. Quality construction goes a long way. Read the labels, watching for additional information such as "Choking Hazard". Washable materials is a must on stuffed toys and dolls. Any fabric toy should have a flame resistant or flame retardant label.

Children under three are notorious for putting everything under the sun in their mouths. It's like a special little part of their brain has "it must go in my mouth" on auto-loop. For this reason, pay super close attention to age ranges on their toys. Anything with small parts pose a choking danger. Even if you have never seen the child put something aside from in their mouth—believe me they do. Avoid any toy with small parts that fit inside a choke test cylinder which is 1.25 inches wide by 2.25 inches long (simulated size/shape of child's throat). If you can't find one like above, a toilet paper tube can easily be used for the same purpose. If it fits in the tube, it's no good.

Avoid magnets and toys that look as though they may break with a strong twist or pull. Young kids are extremely rough on their toys and you definitely don't want them swallowing a magnet or broken piece. In the same vein, avoid toys that already have sharp/pointed edges.

Look for toxicity information where applicable, such as on crayons or paint sets. ALL art supplies should be labeled nontoxic. Crayons should have ASTM D-4236 on the package, which means they've been evaluated by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Painted toys should be covered with lead-free paint.

Sound. While you may think giving a loud toy to a parent is fun or payback (who, at some point, hasn't thought "oh just you wait...") some toys can be as loud as a car horn and cause harm to the child's hearing.

If the toy uses batteries, be sure the battery compartment is secured with screws so kids can't get into them. All electric toys should be meet the safety standards of Underwriters Laboratories, so look for a UL label on the toy.

If you're going to give roller skates, a skate board or a bike, remember to include a helmet and other safety gear (knee pads, wrist guards, etc.).

In addition to the above, I like to read reviews online. It's no fun learning the hard way that the item looks great but after X amount of time a particular part breaks down. I do believe there are lemons in all products, but if multiple people are experiencing the same issue, I'll start looking at a different product.

If the toy you purchase is for your own child(ren) or is purchased for your child(ren) be sure to register the toy with the manufacturer. You'll receive important recall information should something arise.

Forget or lose the information to register the product? Fear not! You can sign up for the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's email press releases and recalls list, found here: You'll get an email when something important comes up and it normally includes an image of the item for easier reference, along with information on how to proceed should you have that item. (The site also offers additional ways of checking out items if you're not into email lists.)

Stay safe and have a happy holiday!

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Comment by Hackensack Meridian Health on December 5, 2011 at 4:14pm

Great post Erin! 

Comment by Kay M. on December 5, 2011 at 12:21pm

Thanks for the info! I always try to read on-line reviews and check safety reports before buying. It is just so important to make sure to have safe toys!


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