December is the official “Safe Toys and Gifts Month.”  With Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa all crammed into this month, those families with children will be spending what they can afford to make the holiday special by granting the wishes of their little ones, but much thought needs to be put into choosing safe toys.  Santa wouldn’t ever want to bring anything unsafe to the children, but he’s getting down to the wire now, so he probably can’t do the proper research into this important topic! 

Prevent Blindness America and United States Consumer Product Safety Commission report that in 2005 (last available data), more than 200,000 toy-related injuries were reported, and almost 8,000 of them were eye injuries, which included lacerations, abrasions, and foreign bodies in the eyes.  Sports equipment and even art supplies can be harmful if not used properly.  The American Academy of Opthalmology estimates that there are 40,000 sports-related eye injuries altogether annually. 

When selecting toys for small children, choose ones that are both appropriate for the child’s age and level of maturity.  All toys should meet ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards.  These toys will bear the label of approval by ASTM.  One of the most common causes of toy-related death is choking.  From 2005-2007, thirty-three children aspirated or choked to death on balloons, toys, or toy parts.  If you are looking at a toy or toy part and it fits inside a toilet paper roll, don’t buy it.  Small toy testers can also be purchased at toy or baby specialty stores. 

Toys with straps, cords, or strings more than 7” long pose a strangulation risk for children under age 3.  Also, remove mobiles from the crib after a baby reaches 5 months of age, or can sit up, to avoid another strangulation hazard.  Toys with sharp edges or points are discouraged.  Keep older siblings’ toys out of the range of your little ones.  This is all common sense advice, and most parents are very conscientious about the safety of their toddlers.  There are just so many hazards lurking in our homes, it pays to be extra careful. 

Select toys that do not contain lead paint.  There are some toxic chemicals or lead in some bibs, vinyl lunchboxes, and jewelry.  Discard or don’t purchase cheap metal jewelry.   Some toys that are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) may contain toxic phthalates.  Most U.S. manufacturers of toys voluntarily stopped using PVC in their toys.  Another thing to think about: if a toy is too loud for you, it is too loud for your child.  Be sure you investigate how noisy it is before making that purchase.

For older kids, the right protective equipment, such as helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, or wrist guards should be purchased along with the type of sporting equipment you plan to buy them, such as bicycles, skateboards, and scooters.  Air guns and BB guns are not considered toys.  Even a cap gun with caps can be ignited by the slightest friction, causing serious burns. 

This is not meant to spread a cloud over the holidays.  It is to help Santa with his decisions in delivering to the children the best, safest toys ever!  We don’t you want to spend your time in the emergency room, because there’s just too much to do!  Should you have questions about certain items, go to www.cpsc.gov or www.recalls.gov and sign up to receive alerts of new recalls, as well as a list of current recalls.  Report dangerous toys to CPSC, 1-800-638-2772.