When you compile your toy list this year, be sure to check it twice -- the second time for safety.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents:
* Unwrap and examine all toys carefully before giving them to the children.
* Check stuffed animals or dolls to make sure that noses and eyes are firmly attached so they won't pop off and get swallowed or inhaled.
* Make sure no seams on dolls or stuffed animals have split and are leaking small pellets that can find their way into a youngster's nose or mouth. Children should be taught to bring a "sick" doll to their parents to be fixed.
* Operate electrically powered toys by battery even if there's a plug-in option. Battery-run toys are safer and don't have the same potential for shocking the child.
* Make sure paint used is lead-free. Federal regulations require that paint on toys sold in the United States contain no more than 0.06 percent lead, and most paints used by toymakers have no lead at all. When buying a homemade toy, however, it is best to check the label on the paint that was used.
It's important to choose toys that are appropriate for each age group. A toy that's safe for a 10-year-old can be dangerous for a 2-year-old.
For babies or young children, avoid toys with small parts or toys with long strings or cords that can cause strangulation. Large eye-catching toys or soft noisemakers made of cloth or safe plastic are best. Toddlers enjoy large blocks and stacking rings.
For older children, toys that shoot objects can injure an eye. Arrows and darts should have soft rubber tips or sturdy suction cup ends.
Toy safety also includes being on guard after presents are opened. Before children begin to play with a toy, go over the instructions and be sure they understand how to use it properly.
To prevent trips and tumbles, teach children to put their toys away after they're finished playing. Toy boxes or chests should be free of sharp edges or pinching hinges, and should have lightweight lids that stay open when they're lifted. Children should be able to open the lid from the inside of the toy box. Air holes in the toy box are an added safety precaution.
For more information about toy safety, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission's hotline, 800-638-CPSC.