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Toy Safety

Guidelines to follow when picking the perfect Halloween gift for the right age

Playing it safe. It's important year-round. A toy or game that's fun for an eight-year-old might pose safety risks for a two-year-old.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Kmart stores have issued some basic guidelines for picking the right playthings for the right age groups.

Last year, the CPSC reports, an estimated 140,700 children were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms after toy-related incidents and 13 children died.

More info is at the CPSC's website www.consumer.gov, or call its toll-free hotline: 1-800-638-2772.

Under 3 Years Old: Children under 3 tend to put everything in their mouths. Avoid buying toys intended for older children which may have small parts that pose a choking danger. Never let children of any age play with uninflated or broken balloons. Avoid marbles, balls, and games with balls, that have a diameter of 1.75 inches or less.

Children at this age pull, prod and twist toys. Look for toys that are well-made with tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts. Avoid toys that have sharp edges and points.

Ages 3 Through 5: Avoid toys that are constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges. Teach older children to keep their toys away from their younger brothers and sisters.

Look for household art materials, including crayons and paint sets, marked with the designation "ASTM D-4236." This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with cautionary information.

For All Children:

Check toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away.

If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel, or the entire gun, is brightly colored so that it's not mistaken for a real gun.

If you buy a bicycle for any age child, buy a helmet too, and make sure the child wears it.

Teach all children to put toys away when they're finished playing so they don't trip over them or fall on them.

Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide. Labels on toys that state "not recommended for children under three ... contains small parts," are labeled that way because they may pose a choking hazard to children under three. Toys should be developmentally appropriate to suit the skills, abilities and interests of the child.

Look for quality design and construction in all toys for all ages.

Make sure that all directions or instructions are clear -- to you, and, when appropriate, to the child. Plastic wrappings on toys should be discarded at once before they become deadly playthings.

Be a label reader. Look for and heed age recommendations, such as "Not recommended for children under three". Look for other safety labels including: "Flame retardant/Flame resistant" on fabric products and "Washable/hygienic materials" on stuffed toys and dolls.

Edges on wooden toys that might have become sharp or surfaces covered with splinters should be sanded smooth. When repainting toys and toy boxes, avoid using leftover paint, unless purchased recently, since older paints may contain more lead than new paint, which is regulated by CPSC. Examine all outdoor toys regularly for rust or weak parts that could become hazardous.


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