Nothing can be more fun than buying a toy for a child. The lights! The noise! The pieces! Although it's easy to get caught up in the excitement, the most important thing to keep in mind when running through the toy aisles is not whether or not your preschooler has something already, but the safety of what you are about to buy.
Each year the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission receives hundreds of thousands or reports of toy-related injuries each year. The good news is, this number can easily go down. Here's how:
Do Your ResearchBefore making a purchase for a little one, ask around. What types of toys do your friend's kids play with? Do they like them? Are there lots of small pieces? Are they safe? Do a quick search on the Internet for recent recalls. There have been a lot of recalled toys and children's products in the past year. But the onus to keep your child safe is on you. Just because an item is on a shelf at a store, doesn't mean it is safe or hasn't been recalled. The same goes for buying toys at yard sales or thrift shops. These toys could be older and could pose a risk.
Be A Label Reader
The CPSC requires labels to be on all toys
that are geared towards children 3 years old up to 6 years old if they are a choking hazard to children under age 3. For children under 8, avoid toys with sharp edges and electric toys with heating parts. If you are buying art materials, such as crayons and paint sets, check the label for the designation "ASTM D-4236." This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with cautionary information.
Buy Age-AppropriatelyFor children under 3, avoid toys with small parts, which can cause choking. Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. If you buy a toy for an older child that has small pieces but there is a younger sister or brother in the home, teach them to keep the toy away from their siblings. If you are buying a video game, pay special attention to the warnings on the box. For preschoolers, stick with games that are rated either EC - Early Childhood or E - Everyone, although be warned that even games rated E - Everyone can contain some violence, comic mischief and/or mild language.
Use Common SenseAvoid toys that are constructed poorly that can easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges. Look for toys that are put together well -- for example, if there are small parts they are secured tightly. Is there a toddler in the house? Maybe you shouldn't buy that 700 piece Lego set. Or, if you do, buy a storage box with a tight-fitting lid to go with it. Is the toy too loud? If possible, check a toy that plays music or has sirens to make sure the noise level won't hurt tender ears.
After the Toy is OpenedAfter the toy is unwrapped, be sure to get rid of any plastic wrappings, which can cause suffocation. Read the directions carefully to make sure that you and your child know the proper way to use the toy and assemble the product exactly the way the instructions say to. Make sure there are no broken parts. Also, always return registration cards that accompany toys and other children's products, so the manufacturer can reach you if the product is recalled. Teach your child how to put his toys away properly so you don't lose pieces or he (or someone else) doesn't trip on them.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission protects the public from unreasonable risk of injury or death from 15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury and for information on CPSC's fax-on-demand service, call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270. To order a press release through fax-on-demand, call (301) 504-0051 from the handset of your fax machine and enter the release number. You can also call the Toy Safety Hotline