Safe Toys And Gifts Month

     BINGHAMTON, NY - "When shopping for gifts this holiday season, remember that toys should be suited to a child's age, interest and skill level," states Jan Chytilo Director of Health Education for the Broome County Health Department.

According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there were 140,700 emergency room visits and 13 deaths due to toy-related injuries in 2003. Toys such as tricycles, scooters, small balls and balloons are responsible for thousands of injuries each year. "This is very important to remember as we recognize December as Safe Toys and Gifts Month," states Ms. Chytilo.

Do not buy toys with long strings or cords for infants and very young children. Ms. Chytilo warns that the cords may become wrapped around an infant's neck and cause strangulation. Never hang toys with long strings, cords, loops or ribbons in or above cribs or playpens where children can become entangled.

While toys should be appealing and interesting to the child, they must be well constructed, durable and safe, as well. She warns that an infant or toddler should never be given toys containing small parts, as they can become lodged in the child's throat. When purchasing a stuffed toy, make sure it is well made, with eyes, nose and mouth securely fastened. Seams on poorly constructed stuffed toys can break open and release small pellets that might be easily swallowed or inhaled. In addition, avoid giving hand-me-down toys with small parts to children under three years of age.

Ms. Chytilo urges parents to carefully read the labels on all toys for safety instructions and age recommendations. Parents should also explain and/or show the child how to use toys properly and safely, and they should monitor children while playing.

She also warns that dart guns or other toys for older children might be capable of firing articles not intended for use in the toy and, therefore, should be avoided. Also, beware of toys that propel objects that could injure the child's eyes.

Also, toys with sharp edges or points should not be purchased. "Toys made of brittle plastic or glass can be broken easily, exposing dangerously sharp cutting edges," warns Ms. Chytilo. In addition, avoid toys that produce extremely loud noises that may damage a child's hearing.

She reminds parents to examine toys periodically, and to look for sharp edges and points that may have developed. Repair broken toys, and discard toys that cannot be fixed.

For more information on selecting safe toys for your children, visit www.cpsc.gov or write Toy Safety, Box 2000, Albany, New York 12220.