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FOR RELEASE: December 5, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Give Kids Gifts with Safety in Mind

As the packed-to-the-ceiling shelves at your local toy store beckon you with promises of exciting play for your child, keep safety at the top of your list as you shop this holiday season.

"The excitement of a new toy can turn tragic if adults do not factor safety into their gift-giving traditions", said Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. "Parents should consider whether the toy is appropriate for the child's age and whether the gift requires accessories such as special protective gear."

Last year, more than 120,000 toy-related injuries were sustained by children ages 14 and under. Innocent-looking toys--such as marbles and balloons--present a choking hazard to small children. Other hazards include toys with small parts, sharp points and edges, toxic paint, flammable materials and long strings that can be a strangulation risk. The Child Safety Protection Act, a federal toy labeling law, requires manufactures to place warning labels on toys that pose a choking hazard to young children. When selecting a toy for your child, avoid:

  • Toys with small, removable parts. These are hazardous particularly to children under age 3, due to the risk of choking.
  • Toys with sharp points or edges. These may enable a child to unintentionally cut or stab himself or someone else.
  • Toys with strings, straps or cords longer than 7 inches. Long strings and cords could wrap around a baby or young child's neck and strangle him or her.
  • Toys that produce loud noises. Toy guns and high-volume portable cassette recorders can permanently harm a child's hearing.
    Propelled toys. These should have soft, non-removable ends to prevent eye injury.
  • Electrical toys. These pose a potential burn hazard to children and should be saved for a child who is at least 8 years old.

"If a toy is too advanced or is easily broken, the child is not going to enjoy it", said Collar. "More importantly, the toy then becomes a hazard to the child. Toys should be interesting to the child and also be well constructed, durable and safe."

"Parents should not give children advanced toys, thinking the child is ready or the toy will serve as a challenge", she said. "Age guidelines, when available, should be followed. They are intended as much for safety as for developmental guidelines."

"Parents should know that they can't depend entirely on the government or toy manufacturers to keep their child safe. Parents should still use their own good judgment in selecting toys. Don't assume that just because it's on the market it's safe", said Collar, adding that only about 1 percent of all toys is ever tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those toys that are tested, about one-sixth are so unsafe as to warrant a voluntary recall.

This year to help you in your search for the perfect gift for your child, SAFE KIDS offers the following guide for selecting the most suitable toys:

  • Infants to 1-year-olds. In the second six months, children become more mobile and at increased risk for suffocation. The most suitable toys for this age group include blocks of wood or plastic, stuffed animals without button noses and eyes, cradle gyms, rattles, mobiles kept out of reach, and squeeze toys.
  • 1 to 2-year-olds. At this age, children are curious and have no sense of danger. They like to climb, jump, throw and play rough-and-tumble games. Supervision is important for these toddlers. The best toys for this age group are cloth, plastic or cardboard books; sturdy dolls with no small, removable parts; large, soft balls; push and pull toys, stacking toys and lightweight toys.
  • 2 to 5-year-olds. These children spend much of their time running. They like tests of physical strength and begin to develop skills such as riding a tricycle, increased finger control and the ability to build with large blocks and construction materials. Toys that are suitable for this age group include wood or plastic building blocks, crayons, finger paints, clay, a small wagon or wheelbarrow, and outdoor toys such as a sandbox, or swing set.
  • 5 to 9-year-olds. Recommended toys include craft materials, card games, bicycles, crafts, jump rope, roller skates, puppets, electric trains and sports equipment. Check tape recorders and battery-operated toys regularly for loose or exposed wires. (If buying a bicycle for a child, remember to buy a helmet as well.)
  • 10 to 14-year-olds. At this age, children enjoy team sports and games that require increased dexterity such as pick-up sticks, marbles and jacks. Strenuous activity is also popular for this age group. Children also begin to develop hobbies and a strong interest in scientific activities. For these children, computers, microscopes, table and board games, and equipment used in outdoor sports would be the most appropriate gifts.

This is just a partial list of safe and age-appropriate toys for children. Use it as a guide during your next toy-shopping trip. For a more complete list, call (405) 271-5695, for a free copy of the "Play Smart Holiday Guide to Toy Safety."


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