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The Christmas shopping season is here! With it brings excitement, stress and confusion for parents and caregivers as they try to discern which toys are safe and which should be avoided. Below are some tips to help make shopping for toys easier and safer.

The most common cause of toy-related deaths is choking, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). From 2005 through 2009, forty-one children aspirated or choked to death on balloons, toys or small toy parts.

Toy Safety Tips

Bigger is better – Avoid buying small toys or toys with small parts for children younger than three.

Read warning labels – Toys that have small parts for children between 3 and 6 are required by law to include a choking hazard warning on the label.

Balloons and small balls – These items are particularly dangerous as they can block a child’s airway.

Magnetic toys – If a child swallows more than one magnet, they can attract each other in the body and cause life-threatening complications. Seek medical attention immediately if you think your child may have ingested a magnet.

Noise – Toys with noise are fun! But children’s ears are sensitive. If a toy is loud and annoying to you, it is probably too loud for your child also.

Cords and drawstrings – Remove beads and knobs from cords that are longer than one foot to prevent the cord from tangling into a dangerous loop. Clothing with drawstrings on the hood can get caught and pose a strangulation hazard.

Lead and toxic chemicals – Some toys may contain lead or toxic chemicals which can cause adverse health effects in small children. While newer toys may not contain these chemicals, older toys may.

The 25th annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety was recently released. It provides safety guidelines for consumers purchasing toys for small children. Read it before you go toy shopping!

Also, a new report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) shows that even though there were fewer toy recalls in 2009, the number of toy related injuries has increased significantly.

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