Mind and Body: Buy safe toys, gifts this Christmas

With the holiday season approaching, your thoughts may be turning to shopping for toys and gifts.

You will want to get the children in your life their favorite toys, and there are thousands of toys to choose from in stores and online.

Before you make those purchases, remember to consider the safety and age-range of the toys.

In 2007 alone, toymakers recalled more than 19 million toys worldwide because of safety concerns such as lead paint and small magnets.

In 2005, there were more than 200,000 toy-related injuries.

To prevent injuries, choose toys that are safe for the age of the child. Look for labels to help you judge which toys might not be safe, especially for infants and children under age three.

For children of all ages, consider if the toys are suited to their skills and abilities.

Even within the child’s age range, toys suitable for one child might not be suitable for another child.

It’s good to keep in mind younger children, if they’re not being watched closely, may play with toys purchased for older children.

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month.

Here are some guidelines for choosing safe toys for all ages:

— Look for toys that have a solid design and a sturdy construction, toys that won’t break, crush or be pulled apart easily.

— Check to see if the instructions are clear.

— Read the labels to see if there are any fire hazards.

—Look for labels that assure you the toys have passed a safety inspection. ASTM means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.

Along with knowing what kinds of toys to choose, it’s important to know what kinds of toys to avoid in order to prevent possible injuries. For example, do not choose:

— Toys with small parts and sharp edges and points.

— Guns and other toys that shoot flying objects and make loud noises.

— Crayons and markers that are not labeled nontoxic.

— Toys that could shatter into fragments if broken.

— Toys with ropes and cords.

— Electric toys with heating elements.

Toys imported from other countries and older toys may have high levels of lead in the paint or in the plastic.

Because of normal hand-to-mouth activity, children can expose themselves to lead paint or dust.

Even small amounts of lead can harmful to your child.

It’s hard to know exactly what toys might be dangerous, but here are a few tips to help you protect your kids from lead exposure from toys:

— Educate yourself about lead exposure from toys.

— Have your children wash their hands frequently.

— Before shopping, look to see what kinds of toys have been recalled.

— Be aware that old toys may contain lead in the paint.

Call your health care provider if you suspect your child has been exposed to lead. Most children have no symptoms, but some children may be irritable, show aggressive behavior, have little appetite or energy or complain of headaches.

Children exposed to a high dose of lead may have abdominal pain and cramps.

Clark County Health Department offers a variety of services for the community and families, immunizations, family planning, WIC, and HANDS. For more information on programs, call 744-4482 or visitclarkhealthdept.org.