Remember guidelines when choosing toys

By By Patty Swearingen / MSU extension area director
Dec. 14, 2003
Parents today are keenly aware of safety concerns when it comes to purchasing gifts for their children, but grandparents and other gift-givers may not be.
Luckily, my children have just about outgrown the toy stage and want bigger items and more expensive. But there are some smaller friends that I still buy for and need to make sure that I buy something that is safe and age-appropriate.
It is the little things that count when choosing toys or other gifts for young children. Although an item may be fun, it's important to consider the child's age, abilities, interests and, most importantly their safety.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provides an exhaustive list of toys and other items at that have been recalled for safety concerns. Consumers can avoid potentially deadly accidents by checking the list to make sure an item has not been recalled.
Paying attention to the age-appropriateness indicator found on most toys can ensure children have fun while avoiding potential dangers. Toys designed for children 3 and older are not suitable for younger children because they often include small parts that pose a choking hazard.
Another thing to consider is that toys typically are designed to stimulate a child's social, emotional and intellectual development. So purchasing a toy that is designed for a much younger or older child than the recipient will probably bore the child because it is either too basic or too advanced.
Remember the following guidelines when choosing toys for children:
For children under 3, make sure all toy pieces are larger than the end of a toilet paper tube. Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.
Look for sturdy construction on plush toys, including tightly secured eyes, noses and other small parts.
Do not allow children to play with plastic wrappings on toys because they pose a suffocation hazard.
Choose toys that foster creative play and require decision-making, and make sure children have a wide variety of toys for all of their developing needs. "Kid-powered" toys are better than those that require batteries, which can be undependable and costly.
When giving gifts like bicycles, skates and skateboards, include safety equipment like helmets and kneepads.
Several years ago my son received a go-cart before he was old enough to handle it and catastrophe hit our home. My younger daughter was on it when he hit a pothole and it threw her off. Her whole body was a scab and she had to have stitches to her eye. What saved her was having the helmet on. So always remember that it is better to be safe than sorry!
Keeping safety in mind during the gift-giving season will ensure that everyone enjoys the holiday time together without worrying about tragic accidents.
I do hope that you and your family have a safe and blessed holiday season. Please call the Extension office at 482-9764 if we can help you with your holiday planning.