In the 1983 Christmas movie “A Christmas Story,” everyone warns Ralphie: “You’ll shoot your eye out,” when he asks for a Red Ryder B.B. gun. And so, when he wakes up on Christmas morning and he is given a Red Ryder B.B. gun from Santa, what happens? He shoots his eye out … well, not really, but he does injure himself and break his glasses.
Want to avoid that this Christmas morning or Hanukkah night? The American Academy of Pediatrics offer these tips:
Make sure the toy is age-appropriate and fits the child’s abilities. Can they play with the toy by themselves?
Choose toys that work on building skills such as fine motor skills and cognitive abilities.
Read warning labels on the toy and the age level that is on the box.
Make sure all toys say “nontoxic.”
Make sure all electronic toys say “UL Certified.” The UL is a company that evaluates products for safety, including for choking hazards and toxicity.
Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls.
Show your child how to use the toy the right way.
Take off tags and strings before giving a toy to a child.
Avoid toys that are too loud and could affect their hearing. If they really want that toy, disable the sound mechanism if you can or remove the batteries.
Prevent choking by making sure all the toys and parts are larger than your child’s mouth. Children younger than age 3 cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
Avoid toys that shoot objects in the air. Remember “You’ll shoot your eye out.”
Be cautious about toys containing button batteries or magnets. Kids eat them, and they can cause stomach and intestinal problems, even death.
Children younger than age 10 should not be given toys that need to be plugged in. Instead choose toys with batteries that have a battery case that they cannot get into.
Make sure stuffed toys are well-made. The seams and edges are secure, there are no loose ribbons or seams, the stuffing is not the small bean-like pellets. It should also be machine washable.
Make sure toys with pull-strings do not have strings that are longer than 12-inches.
Do not give children younger than age 8 broken or uninflated balloons. They are a choking hazard.
Make sure plastic toys are sturdy and not made of thin plastic that will break easily.
Skip the hobby kits and chemistry sets for children younger than 12 years old. Do you want your 5-year-old around chemicals and things that can set the house on fire?
Skip the crib toys. All crib toys need to be removed from the crib as soon as your baby can push up on his hands and knees or is 5 months old.
If you’re thinking about giving kids screens, follow these new guidelines:
- Children younger than 18 months of age: Avoid the use of any screen media except video chatting (with grandparents, for example).
- Children ages 18 months to 24 months: Introduce high-quality programs or apps, but do it with your children to create a dialog about what they are seeing and how it relates to the world around them.
- Children ages 2 to 5 years: Limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programs that you view with your children.
- Children ages six and older, place consistent limits on time spent using media, the types of media and make sure that the use of media does not take the place of sleeping, exercise and other healthy behaviors.
- Designate media-free times together such as during dinner or while driving as well as media-free locations at home such as bedrooms.
- Have ongoing conversations about what it means to be a good citizen and be safe online and offline.
Store toys in a designated location and by age. Make sure the younger kids cannot get into the older kids’ toys.
Avoid toy boxes with lids that locks or a lid that is heavy. Use an open bin or open shelves in a bookcase that is anchored to the wall. If you do use a box, make sure the box has ventilation holes.
Find more tips at healthychildren.org.