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Toy Safety for Holiday Fun

There are numerous tests and stringent criteria that products must meet in order to be approved for sale to the public. Despite these tests, in 1998 the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) received reports of 14 toy-related deaths and estimates that more than 120,000 children were treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. The CPSC offers the following toy safety tips when choosing toys for your children, so you can make informed decisions when buying products this holiday season:

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

For infants, toddlers, and all children who still mouth objects, avoid toys with small parts which could pose a fatal choking hazard.

Look for sturdy construction, such as tightly secured eyes, noses, and other potential small parts.

For all children under age 8, avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.

Do not purchase electric toys with heating elements for children under age 8.

Be a label reader. Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide.

Check instructions for clarity. They should be clear to you, and when appropriate, to the child.

Immediately discard plastic wrappings on toys, which can cause suffocation, before they become deadly playthings.

Read up on other holiday information from the CPSC:

"Toy Safety Tips for Holiday Shoppers" : Press release from CPSC on November 23, 1999.

Thrift Store Safety Checklist: Due to the high incidence of recalled items in thrift stores, the CPSC has come out with this safety checklist.

Toy recalls: Direct from the CPSC.

Report a hazardous product to the CPSC: You can also report an incident or unsafe product by calling toll-free at 1-800-638-2772.

Holiday Safety Tips

Here are some great safety tips to help keep your holiday season happy and safe:

Toy Safety

Follow recommended age ranges on toy packages. Toys that are too advanced could be a safety hazard for younger children.

Check the size of the toy and make sure there are no parts that could be swallowed.

Inspect the toy for sharp edges, loose strings, and any parts that could pinch or get caught on the child.

Remove drawstrings from all hooded clothing as these strings can catch on objects and choke a child.

Make sure stuffed animals and cloth dolls have sturdy seams and securely attached eyes and noses.

Outdoor Fun

Make sure your child's gloves and shoes stay dry. If either becomes wet, change your child into a dry pair.

Sledding on or into the roadway should be prohibited. Look for shallow slopes that are free of obstacles, such as trees and fences. A slope crowded with sledders spells trouble.

Most skiing and skating injuries involve twists, sprains and strains. Prevent injuries by providing your child with competent instruction, proper equipment and appropriate supervision.

Warm, Bright and Safe

Install smoke detectors on each level of your home, especially outside each bedroom.

Use a sturdy fireplace screen to prevent sparks from igniting newspapers, carpeting, curtains and upholestry.

Only use the fireplace when you're home and awake. Extinguish it when you go out or at bedtime.

Make sure all electrical cords are in good condition. Replace them if they're frayed. Never run cords under the carpet.

Happy Visiting

Remember to clean up after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or become exposed to alcohol or tobacco.

When you go out to parties, be sure the sitter knows where you can be reached, the number of the police and fire department and your pediatrician, and how to contact the poison control center.

Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Take a survey of any place you visit.

Food Safety

Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits.

Wash your hands frequently, and make sure your children do the same.

Never put a spoon used to taste food back into food without washing it.

Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separate, and use separate utensils when preparing them.

Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.

Food should never be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

Holiday Traditions

Cutting down your own tree for the Holiday may start a wonderful family tradition. Young children can pick out the tree while an adult does the chopping.

Make charity a part of your holidays. Take your children with you to the store, and let them pick out a toy to donate to a local hospital or shelter. Some Jewish families volunteer in soup kitchens, hospitals or nursing homes on Christmas Day, so employees who celebrate the day can spend it with their family.

Capture the holidays on film - and include an "every year" photo. For example, one family always takes a picture of the children standing in front of the fireplace.

Below are some Internet sites related to children play & holiday safety:

Consumer Product Safety Commission
Safety Alerts

Underwriters Laboratories Inc

Holiday Decoration Safety Checklist

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)

Toy Injury & Prevention Information

National Safety Council

Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association - (Products for babies 18 mths and younger)

The National Program for Playground Safety

Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

National Fire Protection Association Keep safe during the holidays!

Sources: "Toy Safety Tips", Consumer Product Safety Commission; "Holiday Safety Tips", American Academy of Pediatrics. The above information is presented for educational purposes only, and it is not a substitute for informed medical advice or training. Please do not use this information to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without consulting a qualified health or mental health care provider. Reprinted with permission.

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