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December 12, 2007 > Celebrate the Holidays with Safe Toys and Gifts

Celebrate the Holidays with Safe Toys and Gifts

With all the recent news about recalls of toys from China with a high lead content, many parents are justifiably exercising caution as they search for the perfect holiday gift for little Johnny or Joanna. But dangerous levels of lead are not the only safety hazard posed by children's toys.

"Around the holidays, we do see an increase in injuries related to children's toys," says Dr. David Orenberg, medical director of the Emergency Department at Washington Hospital. "Young children often put toys in their mouths, and they can choke on small toys or pieces of toys that have broken off. Toys with sharp points or edges also present a danger because they can cut the back of the child's mouth. Kids sometimes put objects such as beads up their noses, too, and the objects can get stuck in the nose or may go down the back of the throat and cause choking."

While swallowing magnets is not as common as swallowing other objects, magnets or toy pieces containing magnets can cause serious injuries if they are swallowed. "If a child swallows multiple magnets and they pass beyond the stomach, they can attract each other through opposing intestinal walls," Orenberg says. "In some cases, the child may require surgery."

Orenberg notes that when selecting toys, parents should consider the child's age, interests and skill levels. "We usually see an increase in injuries such as lacerations resulting when children fall off their new riding toys," he says. "Sometimes the child just isn't old enough or coordinated enough for that shiny new bike."

Some recommendations from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Safety Council and the National Safe Kids Campaign for choosing safe, age-appropriate toys and games include:

Infants up to 1 year
* Washable dolls and stuffed animals with embroidered features (no glass or button eyes or noses)
* Brightly colored cloth or rubber balls with textured surface for easy grasping
* Unbreakable cups with smooth edges

1 to 2 years
* Blocks with rounded corners
* Push-pull toys
* Books made of cloth or stiff pasteboard pages

2 to 3 years
* Peg boards with large pieces
* Wooden animals
* Low-height rocking horse
* Blocks with numbers and letters

3 to 4 years
* Dolls with wrap-around clothing
* Construction sets with easily connecting large pieces
* Sturdy cars and riding toys (used off roadways and under supervision)
* Large crayons
* Simple card and board games

4 to 6 years
* Simple musical instruments
* Stencils, activity books and picture books
* Small sports equipment
* Watercolor paints and paint books
* Cut-out paper dolls (with rounded-edge scissors)
* Non-electrical trains and sturdy battery-operated toys

6 to 8 years
* Puppets and puppet theatre
* Games requiring some reading
* Dolls and doll equipment
* Jigsaw puzzles
* Kites
* Bicycle with appropriate-sized wheels and training wheels (and helmet)

8 to 12 years
* Electrical toys with Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approval, used on household current only after parent demonstration in use of the toy
* Well-constructed sports equipment
* Arts and crafts kits and materials
* Bicycles with appropriate-sized wheels and other vehicles such as skates
* Science kits
* Model kits (airplanes, cars)

"The most important safety factor with any new toy is parent supervision, especially with infants and toddlers," Orenberg emphasizes. "We want your kids to have a safe and happy holiday. We don't want to see them in the ER."

For more information about toy safety and recalls, visit websites for the Consumer Product Safety Commission at, the National Safety Council at and National Safe Kids Campaign at

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