But with that joy comes the responsibility to make sure the toys you select are safe and age appropriate. Not only does this reduce the risk of injury, it will also help ensure that the toy engages the child. It’s not surprising that December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has compiled this list of recommendations to help ensure that everyone has a happy and healthy holiday—and year.
• Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys that are too advanced will frustrate your child and may pose safety hazards for younger children.
• When choosing gifts for babies and toddlers, consider toys that will build developmental skills. Toys that can be manipulated, such as shape sorters, stacking blocks, and baby-safe puzzles, are great for developing fine motor, cognitive, and perceptual skills. For more tips on choosing toys for babies, see these toy selection tips on HealthyChildren.org.
• If you are considering a digital device for a child or teen, such as a tablet, smartphone or game system, think about the purpose of the device and the rules you want to set around its use. For more information, see these tips on mindful technology use, and healthy digital media use for young children.
• Be cautious about toys containing button batteries or magnets. Children can have serious stomach, throat and intestinal problems—including death—after swallowing button batteries or magnets. In addition to toys, button batteries may be in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids and other small electronics. Small, powerful magnets may be part of building toy sets. Keep button batteries and magnets away from young children and call your health care provider immediately if your child swallows one.
• To prevent burns and electrical shocks, do not give children under age 10 a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
• If you are buying a gift for a young child, look for toys without small pieces. Young children can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age 3 cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long. For more, see How to Buy Safe Toys.
• Children can choke or suffocate on broken or uninflated balloons. Do not allow children under age 8 to play with them.
• Remove tags, strings, and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children. Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches long, because they could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
• When your child receives a gift, be sure to read the label and instructions. Warning labels give important information about how to use a toy and what ages it is for. Be sure to show your child how to use the toy.
• Parents should store toys in a designated location, such as on an open shelf or in a bin and keep older kids' toys away from young children. If you use a toy box, choose one with no lid or a lightweight, non-locking lid and ventilation holes. See Toy Box Safety for more tips.
Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us that antique toys and collectibles can contain lead, which is harmful if ingested. Your best bet is to not give young children these types of items, although they can be tested for lead content.
With some thought when purchasing the gifts and supervision when introducing the toy to your child, you can help ensure that your family has a safe and happy holiday.