Avoid trouble in Toyland

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Gift-giving holidays are approaching and family and friends will be headed off to purchase presents for children of all ages. When looking for the perfect gift for a child, selecting a toy that is safe and developmentally appropriate is key. The age range listed on toys is an indicator of what age is developmentally appropriate and the age at which the toy meets key safety standards for age. Safety is important as toys accounted for 183,800 emergency room visits in 2014 for children under the age of 15.

To ensure that the toys you are buying for the children in your life are age-appropriate, safe and fun, use the following tips.

Avoid Choking Hazards

· Toys for children under the age of three years old should be wider than 1 ¼ inches (about the diameter of the cardboard tube inside toilet paper) and longer than 2 ¼ inches (about the length of an adult thumb).

Select Hazard-free Toys

· Look for bisphenol A (BPA) free plastics, especially for children under age three.

· Think twice about toys manufactured in and imported from other countries as their standards regarding toy safety may be quite different from U.S. standards.

· Be especially careful of painted toys from outside the U.S. since they may contain lead paint.

Buy Protective Gear, Too

· Many toy injuries are related to the child using the toy without the necessary protective gear

· Helmets and knee pads can make a key difference in the safe use of a scooter, bike and skateboard.

Check the Recall List

· Make it a practice to check the Consumer Product Commission recall list. This will save you time and the hassles of standing in post-holiday return lines.

In summary – look for toys that are age-appropriate, safe and foster creativity. For more holiday safety tips, visit the Department of Health website.

Linda Grossman, M.D. is chief of the Bureau of Clinical Services for the Baltimore County Department of Health