COVINGTON -- As busy shoppers snatch toys off the shelf, thinking they have found the perfect gift solution for those in the younger set, The Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Product Safety Commission caution that safety must be considered above all.
And while there's been news lately of dangerous toys being seized at U.S. ports before they reach the marketplace, there is still a need for consumers to take precautions to protect their own children.
In 2011 there were 13 toy-related fatalities that were attributed to asphyxiation, choking or drowning. These included children choking on balloons, drowning after trying to retrieve a toy from a swimming pool or being found with tricycles in swimming pools, according to the CPSC.
The CPSC estimated there were almost 200,000 toy-related injuries to children younger than 15 in 2011. Of those, nearly half were categorized as lacerations, contusions or abrasions of some kind with the head and face the most likely affected areas.
They warn that deflated balloons pose both a choking and a suffocating hazard. They should be kept away from children younger than 8 and when broken, discarded immediately.
Small balls and other toys with small parts pose a choking risk for children younger than 3.
Be aware that scooters and other riding toys such as skateboards and in-line skates are very fast and falls can be deadly. Helmets and safety gear should be properly worn at all times and should always be sized to fit.
Magnets, including those high-powered magnet sets designed as adult toys, are dangerous, especially if swallowed, and should be kept away from children under 14. Building and play sets with small magnets should also be kept away from small children.
The BBB offers these additional tips for keeping children safe:
-- Find out which toys have been recalled. Visit www.recalls.gov. If you have purchased a toy that has been recalled, check the guidelines for what to do next. For more information on recalls, call the CPSC at 800-638-2772.
-- Make sure the toy is age-appropriate. Toy safety isn't only about avoiding recalled products, you also need to make sure you're buying appropriate toys for the age of the child. Read and follow the age recommendation listed on packaging for the toy.
-- Read labels and look for the age recommendations such as "Not recommended for children under 3," and other safety labels including "flame retardant" or "flame resistant" on fabric products.
-- Be cautious of used or older toys. While buying a gently used toy might be cost effective, they may not meet current safety standards and could be too worn from play that they break and become hazardous.
-- Be careful when shopping online. Internet toy vendors may not be as vigilant as brick and mortar stores about pulling recalled products off the shelf.
Also, besides knowing how to purchase toys that are safe, it's important to be aware of safety hazards once the toys have been opened Christmas morning. The CPSC suggests:
-- Immediately discard plastic wrapping or other toy packaging before they become dangerous play things.
-- Keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings.
-- Supervise all battery charging. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children. Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any mechanism to prevent overcharging.