Toy safety -- finding hidden dangers in the toy box

by Julie Snyder

Toy SafetyKids can hardly wait to see what toys are in those packages. Parents anticipate delight and hours of happy play. Emergency medical personnel EMS personnel prepare to respond to emergencies during the holiday, many of them toy-related injuries.

In the United States, December is observed as "Safe Toys and Gifts Month." It reminds us to carefully choose safe and suitable toys.

Knowing what to look out for as you're choosing the perfect toy for a child can prevent injuries during the holidays and in the months to come.

Use these tips as a safety guide both as you sort through your child's toys and when you head out shopping for new.

Prevent dangers in the toy box

As you shop

Stress safety in 2012. In the USA, check for the letters "ASTM" on the packaging. Its presence tells you that the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

• If you purchased gifts throughout the year, check your toy stash against the CPSC Toy Recall List. On the "most wanted" list are toy dart and blaster guns, magnetic action figures, tool bench toys, jewelry sets, rattles and swim toys.

• Although not marketed to children, Buckyball® desktop toys tend to find their ways into small hands and into kids' mouths. These powerful, rare-earth magnets can cause blockages, tissue damage and even perforation when swallowed.

• For kids under 8, avoid toys with sharp edges and points, tiny parts, projectiles or anything that can be propelled and electric toys with a heating element.

• Noisy toys can be just as dangerous. Besides frazzling momma's nerves, the high decibels can damage your child's ears.

Choose age-appropriate games and toys. Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills, and interest level of your child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards to younger children.

Read the warnings and precautions. Then take time to explain how to use the gift to your child or to anyone who needs instruction.

Furnish additional safety equipment if needed. If you plan to give toys such as bicycles, scooters, skateboards and inline skates as gifts, make them safer by also giving a helmet, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards.

Buy durable goods. Look for sturdy construction on plush toys, such as tightly secured eyes, noses, and other small parts.

Ripping into the gifts, safely

Inspect gifts as they're opened. Check for loose bits, crack and breaks that could cut or pinch your child.

Explain how to use it. Some toys need no instructions and your child's on it or using it intuitively. Others break easily. Give kids a heads-up when a gift needs gentle handling.

Remove and dispose of packaging and gift-wrap as soon as possible. Piles of discarded gift-wrap can conceal sharp objects like scissors and the edges of hard plastic packaging that can cut small fingers. Plastic wrapping can cause suffocation.

Tomorrow, next week, next month

Keep toys organized. Have easily accessible toy storage and keep a separate toy chest for older children whose toys may contain small parts not suitable for younger siblings.

Remove all broken toys immediately. If they can't be fixed safely, dispose of them or recycle them.

Do you donate toys that your child has outgrown?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.