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12 toy shopping tips for a safer holiday

Consumer Reports News: November 19, 2007 08:08 AM

If you are left feeling a bit scared and confused shopping for children this holiday season, you are not alone. So far this year there have been tens of millions of toys recalled due to lead paint, small magnets, or toxic chemicals.   

Consumers Union has 12 shopping tips that will help families enjoy a safe and merry holiday:    

  1. Do not buy metal jewelry — especially cheap metal jewelry — for young children.  About 20 percent of children’s metal jewelry has high levels of lead lurking beneath the surface coating.  A child who mouths or accidentally swallows a piece of lead-laden jewelry can suffer lead poisoning.
  2. You can test toys for lead by using a home lead test kit.  Although they are not always accurate, a positive test result indicates a high likelihood that the product you’re testing has lead.  Consumer Reports recommends the Lead Check and the Lead Inspector, which performed best in our tests.
  3. Be careful of toys with magnets.  Many toys have small magnets that can fall out and, if swallowed, can cause serious health problems that are hard to diagnose.  Don’t buy toys with magnetic parts that are small enough to be swallowed. 
  4. If you find loose, small magnets anywhere around the house, track down the source.  Immediately take the product and any of its other magnetic components away from your child and contact the manufacturer and the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov.
  5. Avoid no-name products and be careful of toys purchased at dollar stores, street fairs, vending machines, thrift stores, or yard sales.
  6. When purchasing arts and crafts materials, stay away from permanent paints and markers. Look for water-based paints and glues.  For a child under three years old, purchase age-appropriate material that your child can’t swallow rather than small foam pieces or small pom-pom balls.
  7. Look for the age grading on toy packages and purchase only age-appropriate toys for your child.  The age grading not only relates to play value but also to safety.
  8. Some toys may be inappropriate for your toddlers and babies.  Toys labeled for children 3 and over may have small parts that can be a choking hazard for children under 3 years old.  If you have children under 3 don’t buy a toy with this warning label.
  9. Do your own safety check to determine if your child’s toys are choking hazards for young children.  If his or her toy fits through a toilet-paper tube, it is a potential choking hazard. The government-approved test for choking hazards is done with a smaller tube. The more stringent toilet-paper tube test helps you keep questionable toys out of your child’s hands and mouth.
  10. Beware of toys that can be broken into smaller pieces such as chalk, crayons, or caps from markers.  They can pose choking hazards to toddlers and babies.
  11. Small balls, tricycles, and balloons are the leading causes of death attributed to toys.  Balls smaller than 1-3/4 inches in diameter can pose a choking hazard to young children.  Balloons were associated with more than 110 deaths since 1973.  Children can suffocate while trying to blow up a balloon or while chewing on or sucking a balloon.
  12. Before you shop, check recent toy recalls at www.recalls.gov and at www.notinmycart.org. You can also sign up for automatic recall notifications at www.cpsc.gov.

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