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Choosing safe toys this holiday season

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This time of year, toy safety is important especially when deciding on a Christmas present for your child, niece, nephew, or grandchild. Asking yourself three questions when selecting a child’s next favorite toy can help make all the difference when considering if it’s safe.

In 2016, almost 200,000 children were seen at the emergency department for toy-related injuries. Almost half were under the age of 5. Dr. John-Emmett Mahon, a pediatrician with Ephraim McDowell Mercer Pediatrics said to consider these three questions when selecting a toy this holiday season.

Is the toy age-appropriate? Is it fun? Is it safe?

“Toys made today no longer contain lead paint but some of the older toys do, so if your child is given an old family toy, just be aware that it may contain lead paint which is toxic to your child,” Mahon said. “Some toys have small parts to them and they can be a choking hazard to a younger child. Typically it will say on the box what ages are recommended for the toy and whether or not there are small parts a child could choke on. For any toys that require to be plugged in, or batteries, make sure the plug-in and batteries are out of reach of children.”

Tips for purchasing safe toys include: reading the label, thinking larger than your child’s mouth, avoiding toys that shoot objects in the air, avoiding loud and over stimulating toys, making sure plastic toys are sturdy, avoiding toxic materials that could cause poisoning, avoiding hobby sets and chemistry kits for children under the age of 12, and being extra careful when purchasing crib toys by considering soft objects, loose bedding or any objects that can increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation or strangulation.

Mahon said toy safety varies depending on a child’s age. Toddlers should not be given toys with small parts as they could be choking hazards. In general, toys with lights, sounds, and screens may be very stimulating at any age.

“This excited state can lead to behavioral issues as well as difficulty falling and/or staying asleep,” Mahon said. “When buying a new toy, read the warning label and age recommendation for the toy. For toys with smaller parts to them, I would store them in a closed container of some kind up where a child cannot reach it. ”

Not all popular toys during the holiday season should be considered safe for use. For example, video games are typically in high demand, especially with boys, but some of the content may be too mature for their age and not considered safe.

“You have to assess the development of your child and see if it would be appropriate for them to play with a particular toy or game,” Mahon said.

When considering the right toys for purchase this Christmas season, Mahon said it’s also important to choose toys that encourage interactive play with another child or adult. Doing so can help a child’s social skills.

“Toys that require children to build or draw something will help with fine motor skills,” Mahon said. “Such as building blocks or a coloring book. Toys that require kids to use their entire body, like a tricycle, aid in gross motor development. Books are also a great way to engage a child’s senses because many of them have pictures along with different textures on each page.”