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A safe holiday is a happy holiday

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The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s time to shop for the kids. While they may want every toy in the toy store, selecting the right toys must include attention to safety issues. Here are some ideas to keep in mind for making sure your family enjoys a safe and happy holiday season:

Before even going to the store, check the toy recall and hazardous toys lists. Two good places to start are www.CPSC.gov and www.ToySafety.net.

Once you’re at the store, get in the habit of reading the labels on toys. These labels will list important information, including suitability for young children, flame retardant or resistant properties for toys with fabric, and washability.

As you explore the endless array of toys, choose those that are appropriate for the age, abilities, skills and interests of your kids. It’s a good idea to keep toys meant for older kids away from their younger siblings.

Children under 3 years old tend to put things in their mouths, and are, therefore, susceptible to choking on small objects. Government regulations specify that toys for 3-year-olds should not have parts less than 1.25 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches in length. A simple rule of thumb — if the toy can fit through a toilet paper roll tube, it’s too small.

Watch out for long ropes or cords attached to toys, as they could pose risks of strangulation for infants and children. And make sure toys do not have sharp edges or points, and are well-made with tightly secured parts, such as eyes and noses on dolls.

For children under 10, avoid electrical toys that can cause burns and shocks, and instead, buy battery-operated toys. But, be sure that batteries cannot easily be removed, because ingesting them can cause serious gastrointestinal injuries and even death.

Also, watch for the level of sound the toy produces. Signs of hearing loss have been seen in a significant number of children under 10, and new standards require that hand-held toys not exceed 90 decibels. Another rule of thumb — if the toy is too loud for your ears, it’s probably too loud for a child.

Excessive levels of lead have been found in many toys produced in China, resulting in many recalls. In addition, phthalates — chemicals that may be used in plastics, play cosmetic sets and polymer clays — have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems. Look carefully for the term, “phthalate-free” on the toy label. In general, search for the designation, “ASTM D-4236,” which tells you that the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, when necessary, cautionary information is provided.

Before your children rip their new toys from their boxes and start playing with them, make sure to read all instructions. Be sure to purchase all the necessary safety equipment recommended for each toy, like a safety helmet to go with a new bike. Also, from the start, train your children to put toys away so that they do not become a tripping hazard.

While making sure these new gifts are safe for your children, do not overlook checking the amount of violent content in video games. Based on extensive research, the American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that playing video games increases violent behavior in adolescents. As parents, you must take the initiative by limiting the time spent playing video games, and encouraging outdoor play.

Familiarize yourself with the rating system for games. Those under 21 years should not be allowed to play games rated “M.” If you cannot review the contents of the games rated “T” yourself, consult websites such as ChildrensSoftware.com, ReviewCorner.com and Lionlamb.org. Remember, you are the parent and must take charge!

Following these tips and guidelines should result in a safe home and holiday. The bottom line is, you can’t have a happy holiday unless it’s a safe holiday.

Updated 4:29 pm, July 9, 2018
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