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Careful when choosing toys as gifts
Health advice
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I have a new “baby” at my house and he is making me think twice about toys and household items that might fit into his eager little mouth. In the past two days, the problem has compounded — my baby has figured out how to jump onto chairs and sofas.
Raven, my black, 4-month-old cockapoo, is as time consuming as any baby I’ve ever held.
I recently bought some children’s educational toys to see just how well I could train Raven. I spent almost an hour in the store and came away with three toys I thought he could master.
Each year, some 5,000 new toys enter the market place and this holiday season there are more than 150,000 different toys for sale in approximately 1 million stores. Despite the efforts of manufacturers, retailers and safety inspectors, it is impossible to examine every toy. However, it is possible for parents and relatives to check every new toy purchased and examine old toys for possible hazards.
Buyers should take the time to read labels. Look for and heed age recommendations, such as “not recommended for children under 3.” Look for other safety labels including “flame retardant or flame resistant” on fabric products and “washable/hygienic materials” on stuffed toys and dolls. Check out consumer recalls on toys. There have been thousands of recalls in the past two years — especially for lead-based paint in jewelry and toys.
Children are curious, inventive and can be unpredictable. This can lead to trouble when they use toys in ways they were not intended to be used. When buying toys it is important to do so with care. Keep in mind the child’s age, interests and skill level. If the intended recipient is known for taking things apart, make sure the parts can’t be swallowed, inserted into ears or noses, or used to injure younger siblings.
Be sure all directions or instructions are clear. Immediately get rid of plastic bags, wires and protective wrappings on toys before they become deadly playthings. New toys intended for children younger than 8 should, by regulation, be free of sharp glass and metal edges. Older toys, however, can break to reveal parts small enough to be swallowed or to become lodged in a windpipe or body cavity. The law bans small parts in new toys intended for children under 3. This includes removable small eyes and noses on stuffed toys and dolls, and small, removable squeakers on squeeze toys.
Think big when choosing toys. All toy parts should be larger than the child’s mouth to prevent injuries, especially choking.
Some noisemaking guns, toy caps and other toys can produce sounds at noise levels that can damage hearing. The law requires the following label on boxes of caps producing noise above a certain level: “Warning: Do not fire closer than one foot to the ear. Do not use indoors.” Caps producing noise that can injure a child’s hearing are banned. It might be wise to give serious thought to toys that resemble weapons.
Beware of toys with long cords or strings. They can be dangerous for infants and young children because the cords may become wrapped around an infant’s neck, causing strangulation.
Never hang toys with long strings, cords, loops or ribbons in cribs or playpens where children can become entangled. Remove crib gyms from cribs when the child is able to pull themselves up on their hands and knees.
Store toys properly after play to avoid trips and falls. Toy boxes should also be checked for safety. A toy chest should have a lightweight lid that can be opened easily from within. For extra safety, be sure there are ventilation holes. Watch for sharp edges that could cut and hinges that could pinch. Attach rubber bumpers to the front corners of a toy chest so little fingers won’t be caught in a slammed lid.
And finally, stay away from flying toys and projectile-firing toys.
I’ll let you know how badly I get teased by my husband and children when Santa brings toys and pajamas for my new “baby.”

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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