December has been designated as Safe Toys and Gifts Month to remind parents who are shopping for the holidays of the importance of purchasing age-appropriate toys.
Many toy-related injuries occur when parents overestimate a child’s abilities and biological development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, "All toys can be dangerous when they are not used properly or are in poor condition. Parents should continue to watch out for mislabeled toys and always properly supervise young children." Toys should reflect the different developmental stages of childhood.
The organization recommends that toys for newborns and up to age one be brightly-colored and lightweight, and they should appeal to the baby's sight, hearing and touch. For ages one and two, toys should withstand a toddler's curious nature. For ages two to five, toys should be creative or imitate the activity of parents. Toys for children ages five to nine should help them develop new skills while hobbies and scientific activities are good for kids ages 10 to 14, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The group known as WATCH (World Against Toys Causing Harm) generates a list each year of the top 10 toys "with the potential to cause childhood injuries." The list can be viewed at their website www.toysafety.org/worstToyList_index.html. Toys typically nominated are ones with little or no warning labels on parts that can cause choking if ingested or improperly used. Parents should always check a toy for potential choking hazards and sharp points, and consider whether it is easily breakable.
Parents may also want to check out the websites www.cpsc.gov and www.recalls.gov. Here, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission lists all government recalls, including those on toys and children's products. This commission is charged with "protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from more than 15,000 types of consumer products."