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December 13, 2011 > Check Your List Twice for Toy and Gift Safety

Check Your List Twice for Toy and Gift Safety

Make Sure That Toys and Gifts for Young Children Are Safe and Age-appropriate

If you have infants and small children to shop for this holiday season, it's a good idea to double check list-for safety's sake.

Karen Smith, R.N., coordinator of Washington Hospital's Maternal/Child Education Department, says that parents, grandparents, and other family members should be particularly careful when making purchases for their families' youngest members.

"It really is very important to shop for age-appropriate toys because there are so many toys out there that can be unsafe if they're not used for the right age group," Smith says. "There are definitely toys out there made for infants and young kids that are unsafe. Ask yourself: Does the toy you're buying come apart?

Are there parts that could be choked on?"

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), new toy safety guidelines-such as establishing the lowest lead content and lead paint limits in the world; setting limits on the use of certain phthalates; and converting the voluntary toy standard into a mandatory standard-have contributed to a dramatic decline in toy recalls since 2008. There were 44 toy recalls in fiscal year 2010, down from 50 recalls in 2009 and 172 recalls in 2008. In addition to a decline in recalls, toy-related fatalities decreased in 2009.

However, while recalls and deaths have declined, recent statistics from CPSC indicate that toy-related injuries are increasing. In 2009, there were an estimated 186,000 emergency room-treated injuries related to toys with children younger than 15, which is up from 152,000 injuries in 2005.

And many times, even toys that are considered safe can still pose a threat to younger infants and children if they are meant for older children. Fortunately, guidelines for commercially sold toys indicate the appropriate age group and can help in purchasing toys for young children.

Think safety first

This month, recognized as Safe Toys and Gifts Month, is the perfect time to brush up on toy safety knowledge before purchasing last-minute holiday gifts. Plus, the extra care you take may help avoid potential accidents.

One common pitfall parents and others make in gift buying, Smith says, is when there are multiple children of varying ages in the same household. A toy that may be appropriate for a 7-year-old is likely not safe for a 2-year-old.

Prevent Blindness America(r), which sponsors Safe Toys and Gifts Month, suggests the following guidelines:
* Only buy toys meant for a child's age.
* Show him or her how to use their toys safely.
* Keep an eye on kids when they play.

Even toys that parents might not think of as being unsafe-like refrigerator magnets-may pose a choking hazard in younger children. But even the most vigilant parents and caretakers might overlook a hidden danger, according to Smith.

"The truth is that any emergency that happens to an infant or young child is scary," she says. "One way of safeguarding your child's health is to know cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Having this knowledge can help alleviate the feeling of helplessness if something does happen."

Smith's department regularly offers a CPR for Family and Friends class designed for parents and caregivers.

"CPR for Family and Friends is just that," Smith says. "It's not a certified class because it doesn't cover CPR for adults, but it does follow American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines for infants and children. And the cost is only $30.

"It's the one thing you need to know immediately, because it does take time for 9-1-1 to respond."

While the class is helpful for those who have never taken a CPR class, Smith also says that it's a good opportunity for those who have been through a class in the past, especially since the AHA, upon reviewing data, has made some significant updates to CPR protocol.

"People may not know that the guidelines have changed for CPR," she says. "Now is a good time to get up-to-date on new guidelines. You want to stay current in your knowledge, and this class is an inexpensive way of doing that."

During the four-hour class, which is held during the week and on Saturdays, each participant has ample time to practice on a mannequin under the supervision of a certified instructor, according to Smith.

Ultimately, when it comes to toy and gift safety for kids, it pays to do your homework and be prepared, she says.

To stay up-to-date

For the latest information about recalls involving children's toys, safety equipment, and other items, visit the CPSC's Web site at For more tips about toy safety, visit

To learn more about classes geared toward the health and wellness of mothers, infants, and young children-such as CPR for Friends and Family-visit

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