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Choosing the proper toy can keep holidays merry

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Nov. 25, 2013) It's easy to get caught up in the advertising and hype of the holidays. But as you prepare your shopping list for the children in your life, be sure that the toys you plan to give are appropriate and safe. Toys and games provide many opportunities for children to learn and grow physically, mentally and socially. However, toys and games that are not age-appropriate or not used properly can cause serious injury or even death.

An estimated 265,000 toy-related injuries were seen in hospital emergency departments in 2012, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those, an estimated 69 percent involved children age 12 and younger. For this age group, nonmotorized scooters or riding toys were associated with the most injuries.

“Riding toys, while safe in the proper environment, such as a sidewalk and under adult supervision, are incredibly dangerous when used around stairs, traffic or swimming pools,” said Erika Janes, R.N., coordinator of Safe Kids Louisville, led by the Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Kosair Children’s Hospital.

In fact, of the 11 toy-related fatalities to children younger than age 15 in the U.S. in 2012, seven were associated with riding toys and involved drowning, injuries due to a fall or motor vehicles.

Other ways to avoid injury include ensuring the toys you purchase are age appropriate.

“Younger children can get frustrated by playing with toys and games that are not suited to their physical or mental capabilities,” Janes said. “The age guidelines found on packages really are helpful.”

When purchasing toys and games for your child, remember they should be:

  • Appealing and interesting to the child
  • Suited to the child’s physical abilities
  • Suited to the child’s mental and social development
  • Well-constructed, durable and safe for the child’s age

“Also remember that while a toy might be appropriate for one child in the household, it might not be appropriate for younger siblings,” Janes said. “Toys with small parts, for example, are popular for kids over age 5 but can pose a great choking danger for those under age 3.”

An additional concern is the increased use of button batteries in toys, electronics and household items. “These batteries not only pose a choking hazard, but if swallowed they can erode the lining of internal organs – without any initial sign or symptoms,” Janes said. “If you think your child has swallowed a battery, you should make an immediate trip to the emergency room for X-rays and evaluation.”

In general, most toys and games on the market today are safe. However, manufacturer safety standards are voluntary, and you can never be completely sure they are being followed. Injuries can still occur despite government regulations and toy makers’ best efforts to test products.

“Whatever toy you purchase, be sure that children are using it properly and with the necessary adult supervision,” Janes said.

The following is a list of toys that the Children’s Hospital Foundation Office of Child Advocacy of Kosair Children’s Hospital, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend for specific age groups. Remember, however, that these are merely guidelines. Parents should watch for mislabeled toys and always provide supervision for younger children.

For all ages

  • Always read age and safety labels on toys.
  • Explain and/or show children how to use toys properly and safely.
  • Keep toys intended for older children away from younger children.
  • Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards.
  • Store toys safely and teach children to put toys away so they are not tripping hazards. Check toy boxes and shelves for safety.

    Newborn to 1 year old – Choose “eye-catching” toys that appeal to a baby’s sight, hearing and touch, such as:

  • Large plastic blocks and soft cloth blocks
  • Pots and pans
  • Rattles and teethers
  • Soft, washable animals, dolls or balls with painted- or stitched-on eyes, nose, etc., and molded (not loose) hair
  • Bright, movable objects suspended out of baby’s reach
  • Busy boards, activity boxes and cubes
  • Floating bath toys
  • Squeeze toys
  • Roly-poly toys

    1- to 2-year-olds – Toys for this age group need to withstand a toddler’s curious nature, such as:

  • Cloth, plastic or board books with large pictures
  • Sturdy dolls
  • Wooden or large hollow plastic blocks
  • Ride-on toys propelled by pushing with feet (no pedals or steering)
  • Musical tops
  • Nesting blocks
  • Push and pull toys (no long strings)
  • Stacking toys
  • Toy telephones
  • Soft, lightweight balls
  • Toys with noise and action effects
  • Large crayons and sturdy, large-size paper

    2- to 5-year-olds – Toys for this age group are usually experimental and should imitate activities of parents and older children, such as:

  • Books (short or stories)
  • Blackboard and chalk
  • Building blocks
  • Crayons, nontoxic finger paints, markers and clay
  • Large tools and fix-it play sets
  • Realistic dolls with accessories
  • Music box toys
  • Housekeeping toys
  • Realistic stuffed toys, replicas of famous characters
  • Outdoor toys, sandbox, slide, swing, playhouse
  • Realistic ride-on toys (tricycle, cars, wagons, tractors – used with supervision)
  • Simple puzzles with large pieces
  • Board games with few pieces and simple rules
  • Dress-up clothes
  • Tea party utensils (not miniature)

    5- to 9-year-olds – Toys for this age group should help the child develop skills and creativity, such as:

  • Craft and sewing sets
  • Doctor and nurse kits
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Hand puppets
  • Pattern-making toys
  • Electric trains
  • Paper dolls
  • Books
  • Jump ropes
  • Roller skates with helmet and protective gear
  • Sports equipment-  Bicycle (sized to child) and helmet
  • Blunt scissors, crayons, markers, art chalks, sketch pads
  • Card games, simple strategy and quiz games

    10- to 14-year-olds – Hobbies and scientific activities are ideal for this age group, such as:

  • Computer and video games
  • Construction sets with complex parts, models
  • Sewing, needlework
  • Musical instruments
  • Games requiring speed, dexterity, competition and concentration
  • Two-wheeled bicycle and helmet
  • Microscopes, telescopes
  • Remote control toys
  • Books
  • Audio/visual equipment
  • Sports equipment with safety gear
  • Hobby collections

    As Kentucky’s only full-service, free-standing hospital dedicated exclusively to caring for children, adolescents and young adults, Kosair Children’s Hospital has a strong commitment to the health and safety of all children. For more information on toy safety or a variety of other health and safety subjects, visit

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