Consider Safety When Buying Kids' Toys

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan helps children push a cart of toys while he and teammates participated in the "Shop with a Jock" program, which provides a $100 gift card and a shopping experience to children from an Atlanta-area mission.

For children, waking up Christmas morning and playing with their new toys is the highlight of the holiday, but adults should be careful when trying to find that perfect gift for a child.

Beth Washington, Safe Kids Tulsa Area coordinator, said when shopping for toys, always look for the age limits on the packaging.

"They're on there for a reason. Parents need to follow that," Washington said, including herself.

While shopping for her 16-month-old daughter, she said she found a doll she wanted to buy, but the label said it was children 2 and up.

Although she couldn't see anything that looked like a choking hazard, she said she "practiced what she preached" and put the doll back.

"It may look totally fine, but if something were to happen, I would have been beside myself," Washington said.

Choking is the leading cause of injury for children under 3, with toys and coins accounting for the most nonfood-related chocking incidents, according to Safe Kids USA.

For babies, toddlers and younger children, look for toys that don't have small parts, which can become choking hazards.

If there are older children in the home, make sure they know not to leave their toys out where younger siblings can get to them.

"If we have a board game or toy that has small parts, we count all the pieces and when we put it up, we count again," Washington said.

In 2011, 17 children died as a result of toy-related injuries, and almost half of those were from choking on balloons and balls, the national agency reported.

Another hazard to children are the batteries needed for the toys and remote controls, especially the button-type batteries, which can cause damage to a child's esophagus.

Sheryll Brown, Oklahoma Department of Health's director of injury prevention service, said safety should always be in mind when buying children gifts.

"Bicycles are a big item for Christmas," Brown said. "Buy a helmet as well."

If giving a bike, scooter or skates, safety items like helmets, knee and elbow pads should also be included, she said.

Riding toys, including scooters and tricycles, are associated with more injuries than any other toy group, according to Safe Kids.

"Things may look fun, but you have to be careful," said Brown, who also stressed shoppers should read toy labels before buying. "Take that to heart." Toy safety When choosing a toy for a child, watch out for:

-- Toys with small removable parts that can pose a choking hazard for children under 3. If a part can easily fit through a toilet paper roll, it can be a choking hazard.

-- Toys with sharp points or edges

-- Toys with loud noises such as toy guns and high-volume music players that can impair hearing

-- Toy darts and other projectiles that can cut or cause eye injuries

-- Toys with strings, straps and cords longer than 7 inches that could get wrapped around a child's neck

Source: Safe Kids USA and U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

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