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Safety First This Season

As the Holiday season fast approaches, many parents and family members search throughout the month of December to find that perfect gift for the children on their lists. This month also brings a renewed focus on purchasing safe toys and gifts. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 251,700 toy-related injuries throughout the United States. Adding to that alarming number, most of the injuries affected children under the age of 15. Read on to learn some helpful tips to use while you shop and discover some safe and delightful gift ideas for each age group!

Do Your Homework Online

More and more Americans are purchasing toys and gifts online, which means sight unseen. While you are shopping online, it is essential to read reviews for any concerns other customers have had along the way. Take the added step and research the company or account you are purchasing from online to make sure they are well rated and are in good standing.

Keep These Guidelines In Mind

  • Any toys made of fabric should be labeled flame retardant.
  • If you purchase a stuffed toy, make sure it is washable
  • All painted toys (like wooden toys) must use lead-free paint.
  • Any art materials should say nontoxic.
  • Crayons and paints should say ASTM D-4236 on the package.
  • Try to steer clear of older toys, even some hand-me-downs from friends and family, as these might not meet the current safety standards.
  • Ensure the toy isn’t too loud – the noise of some rattles, squeak toys, and musical or electronic toys can be as loud as a car horn or even louder if the child holds it directly to their ear, which can damage hearing.
  • Avoid toys with projectiles or sharp objects.
  • Make sure to discard any packaging or plastic wrap promptly.

Stay Age-Appropriate

Buying age-appropriate toys and gifts is important. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a toy rating system to help guide gift-givers with the recommended age printed on the packaging. This agency guides age-appropriate gift-giving ideas for years 0-5 and 6-12 on their site; click here for more information. This site also details precautions to take on various gifts or toys like balloons, batteries, arts and crafts, and even packaging.

Remember The Stages of Play

Babies - From about four months old, babies begin to reach for and grasp objects. By six or seven months, they can switch between hands. At nine months, they can pick up smaller items, like blocks. Some smart toys for babies could include a nursery mobile, a ring stack toy made from fabric or a softer plastic, and push-pull toys, all soft or toys without hard edges.

Toddlers – Toddlers are just becoming aware of how things work. They like to stack blocks, babble into toy phones, and play pretend. Gift ideas for toddlers could be balls, shape-sorting toys, or role-play toys like play kitchens, toy doctor’s kits, or dress-up sets.

Pre-School - This period is where they will be learning new little tricks and connecting with other children. Safe toys and gift ideas for preschoolers could be arts and crafts sets, blocks and construction sets, large piece or floor puzzles, and other games.

Elementary School – Children of this age group have begun to understand the world around them and start to show talents and special interests. Physical abilities and motor skills are refined during this age, and peer relationships take on more considerable importance. Some toy and gift options could include jump ropes, other physical activity toys (include safety equipment like pads or helmets), card and board games, musical instruments, and science toys, equipment or kits.

Give The Gift Of You

While we all want to be sure to have a perfect present for each unique child on our list, remember that the essential part of the gift-giving equation is you. Many toys and games are played solo, but a large part of the play process is the memories made and who was with them while they learned. Giving attention to your children as they play or paint or color or read is just as important and helps promote feelings of security, self-esteem, and being loved. Be sure to play alongside your children and monitor and guide their use of the toys or gifts you give them. The toy is a tool to help your child develop, but it is the presence of a loving, caring adult who helps them genuinely grow.