- Be especially careful when choosing toys for children younger than 3 years old. Purchase nontoxic toys that do not have small pieces, pieces that can be broken off, sharp edges or points.
- Carefully read instructions before assembling a toy.
- Remove and discard all packaging before giving a toy to a child.
- Consider whether a toy for an older child could be harmful to a younger child if they may be present in the same environment.
- Check toys at least every three months to ensure safety.
Before children tear open presents on Christmas morning, parents should keep safety in mind.
The state Department of Community Health is reminding parents that December is Toy Safety Awareness Month, and little toy pieces can lead to big problems for toddlers.
Dr. Stephen Klacik, a pediatrician at Longstreet Clinic, said choking is the primary toy concern for children younger than 3. He urges parents to follow the recommended ages on toys and not to buy items that contain small pieces or magnets that could be swallowed.
Hard candy is also a no-no for toddlers, he said.
“We’ll have a few kids who have choked and there are medical problems down the line and brain asphyxia. If you can’t breathe long enough, that’s what happens,” he said. “You don’t want anybody to get hurt. That would definitely ruin everything.”
To keep Christmas joyful, Chanda Banks, a Gainesville resident with sons ages 4 and 7, said she inspects gifts and toys before turning her kids loose with them.
“Ninety percent of the time, toys go straight to the child’s mouth, especially my kids,” she said. “When I’m shopping for my boys, I look for toys with bigger plastic pieces, not small parts that could break apart. Sometimes I’ve had to gift up to my 7-year-old or I’ve had to completely regift or return the gift because it’s not appropriate for my children.”
Klacik also recommends that parents should not buy toddlers items with sharp points, components that get hot or anything that can be wrapped around their necks.
“Anything with ropes or cords is usually a bad idea,” he said.
Klacik also warns gift-givers and parents to consider whether a toddler may be around an older child who has toys that are unsafe for a small child.
“It’s best if you can have them in separate rooms or something like that where you can keep the younger child away,” he said. “Then clean up when you’re done playing.”
If you’re giving a bike or a scooter, remember to give the child a helmet, as well, Klacik said.
The safest gift of all are books, he added.
“You can just read to your kid, and it’s a win-win for everybody,” Klacik said.