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Toy Safety for the Holidays

The holiday season is here and for many kids that means one thing: toys. While parents are on a mad-dash to scoop up the hottest toys, safety should be at the top of their wish lists. Each year, an estimated 169,300 toy-related injuries in children ages 14 years and younger are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the United States.

With the new federal toy safety standards, passed by Congress and in place this year, parents can be reassured that the vast majority of toys on store shelves are safe. Despite the increase in safety however, Safe Kids New Jersey urges parents to remain cautious.

Right now parents and caregivers are in the middle of the country’s busiest toy-buying season (approximately 50 percent of all toy purchases in the United States occur between the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas) and the new safety standards allow them to shop with more confidence than ever.  However, it doesn’t mean we should throw caution to the wind. Shoppers should still make sure they are buying age appropriate toys and following important toy safety guidelines. The Consumer Product Safety Commission should continue to monitor the marketplace to ensure that toys comply with these standards.

Top five tips for making sure children’s toys are safe during this holiday season: 

  • Before shopping for toys, consider the child’s age, interest and skill level. A fun, but inappropriate toy for a particular child can be dangerous.
  • Make sure toys intended for older children are stored separately from those for younger children.
  • Keep toys with small parts away from children under age 3. They can choke on small toys and toy parts.
  • Check regularly for damage that could create small pieces that are choking hazards. Make any necessary repairs immediately, or discard damaged toys out of the reach of children.
  • Actively supervise children when they are playing with riding toys as well as any toy that has small balls and small parts, magnets, electrical or battery power, cords and strings, wheels or any other potential hazard. Simply being in the same room as your child is not necessarily supervising. Active supervision means keeping the child in sight and in reach while paying undivided attention.

To stay informed about harmful products in the marketplace, parents can go to http://www.recalls.gov/ and sign up for email alerts on recalled children’s products. It’s too difficult to get your information piecemeal from TV or the newspaper, so if you get the emails sent to you each time a recall happens, you’ll know right away which products to avoid. 

Safe Kids New Jersey reminds parents that most toys are safe, especially if you buy from a reputable retailer.  That doesn’t mean you have to go to a ‘big box’ store.  But if you shop at a locally-owned toy store, make sure that the owner is aware and vigilant about getting recalled items off the shelves. 

If secondhand toys are purchased, or received from friends or relatives, Safe Kids New Jersey advises parents to visit http://www.cpsc.gov/ and make sure the toy hasn’t been recalled for safety reasons. Used toys should also be in good condition with all original parts and packaging, if possible. If a new toy comes with a product registration card, mail it in right away so the manufacturer can contact you if the item is ever recalled. 

For more information about toy safety visit http://www.usa.safekids.org/ and http://www.cpsc.gov/.

Top Decorating Mistakes to Avoid this Holiday Season

The holidays are a time for spending with family and friends, not rushing to the emergency room. Following a few important safety tips can help keep your holidays injury-free. 

In addition to food, family, and gifts, decorations are one of the highlights of the holiday season. While candles, Christmas trees, and other decorations are part of the holiday spirit, they can pose fire and poisoning hazards, especially to curious children. Once all of your decorations are up, keeping a close eye on both children and the decorations themselves is an important step to a safe holiday season.

Never, never leave lit candles unattended. In 2005, candles started 15,600 home fires in the United States, and the top four days for candle fires are around Christmas and New Year’s, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Do not put candles on a tree or a natural wreath, or near curtains or drapes, and keep matches and lighters locked out of children’s reach. Using battery-operated flameless candles is an alternative that does not pose a fire risk. If you would like decorative lighting, make sure it is labeled with the seal of an independent testing lab, and only use it outdoors if it’s labeled for outdoor use.

If you decorate a tree, avoid these top decorating mistakes:

  • Decorate with children in mind. Do not put ornaments that have small parts or metal hooks, or look like food or candy, on the lower branches where small children can reach them. Trim protruding branches at or below a child’s eye level, and keep lights out of reach.
  • Natural Christmas trees always involve some risk of fire. To minimize the risk, get a fresh tree and keep it watered at all times. Do not put the tree within three feet of a fireplace, space heater, radiator or heat vent.
  • Never leave a lit Christmas tree or other decorative lighting display unattended. Inspect lights for exposed or frayed wires, loose connections and broken sockets.
  • Do not overload extension cords or outlets and do not run an electrical cord under a rug.
  • Do not burn Christmas tree branches, treated wood or wrapping paper in a home fireplace.

Top tips to prevent poisoning this holiday season:

  • Keep alcohol, including baking extracts, out of reach and do not leave alcoholic drinks unattended.
  • Color additives used in fireplace fires are a toxic product and should be stored out of reach. Artificial snow can be harmful if inhaled, so use it in a well-vented space.
  • Mistletoe berries, Holly Berry and Jerusalem Cherry can be poisonous. If they are used in decorating, make sure children and pets cannot reach it.
  • In a poison emergency, call the national Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222.

For more information about holiday safety visit the fire and poisoning prevention pages at http://www.usa.safekids.org/.