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Toy Shopping Survival Guide

 'Tis the season for holiday shopping, and Safe Kids East Central, led by the Georgia Health Sciences Children's Medical Center, would like to remind parents of the importance of purchasing age-appropriate toys.

Every parent believes their child is exceptional, but it's important not to overestimate your child's abilities when it comes to toy safety. Purchasing toys that are within the proper age guidelines is a vital first step in ensuring your child's safety.

Here is a guide you can clip and take shopping as a reminder of what kinds of toys are appropriate at what ages:

• Newborn to age 1

Babies explore with their eyes, hands and mouth. Crib gyms, floor activity centers, activity quilts, squeaky toys and soft dolls or stuffed animals are good choices.

• Ages 1 to 3

These little ones like to climb, jump, walk, throw and play rough and tumble games. Try soft blocks, large blocks, push and pull toys, books, and pounding and shaping toys.

• Ages 3 to 5

Toddlers and preschoolers are learning to use their imagination and enjoy toys that are close companions. Look for nontoxic art supplies, pretend toys (e.g. play money, telephone), teddy bears or dolls and outdoor toys (e.g. tricycle and a helmet).

• Ages 5 to 9

Children in this age group like to be challenged with complex games that teach specific skills and concepts. Arts and crafts kits, puppets, jump ropes, action figures and miniature dolls are appropriate gifts.

• Ages 9 to 14

Older children begin to develop lifelong skills and hobbies and enjoy team and individual sports. Handheld electronic games, board games, sports equipment (with protective gear), model kits and musical instruments are some popular items.

Here are a few additional tips to promote toy safety:

•    Check warning labels on toys to prevent unintentional injury or choking.
•    Inspect older toys for damage such as sharp edges or loose parts.
•    Store toys of older and younger children separately.
•    Avoid toys that contain lead paint. Even at low levels, lead exposure can impair cognitive function and I.Q. Likewise, discard toys containing lead that are already in the home.
•    Avoid toys with small parts or edges, toys that produce loud noises and projectiles (such as darts). Small part can be a choking hazard, and the projectiles could cause eye injuries.
•    Toys with strings, straps and cords longer than seven inches are a strangulation hazard.
•    Cap guns should not be given to children younger than 8 years as they can be ignited by the slightest friction and cause serious burns.

Each year nearly 120,000 children under age 14 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries. Don't let your child be one of them.

Rene Hopkins, RN, is the coordinator Safe Kids East Central, Led by Georgia Health Sciences Children's Medical Center.


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