"You’ll shoot your eye out kid” - many of us know that famous line from the holiday classic A Christmas Story regarding Ralphie’s request for an official Red Ryder BB Gun. While it pokes fun at this cliche phrase parents have uttered for years, there is some truth to it. 

We all love to see a child’s face light up when we give them a gift. Whether they're wrapped under a tree or exchanged with the lighting of a candle, gifts for kids are always a joy to give.  Unfortunately, thousands of kids need medical care each year due to toy-related injuries. A small part gets lodged in a kid's throat, a sharp object hits a child in his face.   

When choosing a toy for a child, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the toy be appropriate for the child's age and stage of development.  Another key point in preventing a child from harming themselves with a toy would be to supervise them while playing. Always check for the age group on each toy to make sure the child will be safe. Young children around the age of 3 years old and younger tend to put almost everything in their mouths which could result in choking. It is best to give children around that age larger toys to play with like blocks to avoid the risk.

Here are ten helpful safety and toy selection tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

  • Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys that are too advanced will frustrate your child and may pose safety hazards for younger children.
  • When choosing gifts for babies and toddlers, consider toys that will build developmental skills. Toys that can be manipulated, such as shape sorters, stacking blocks, and baby-safe puzzles, are great for developing fine motor, cognitive, and perceptual skills. For more tips on choosing toys for babies, see these toy selection tips on HealthyChildren.org.
  • Be cautious about toys containing button batteries or magnets. Children can have serious stomach, throat and intestinal problems – including death – after swallowing button batteries or magnets. In addition to toys, button batteries may be in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids, and other small electronics. Small, powerful magnets may be part of building toy sets. Keep button batteries and magnets away from young children and call your health care provider immediately if your child swallows one.
  • To prevent burns and electrical shocks, do not give children under age 10 a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
  • If you are buying a gift for a young child, look for toys without small pieces. Young children can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age 3 cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long. For more, see How to Buy Safe Toys.
  • Children can choke or suffocate on broken or uninflated balloons. Do not allow children under age 8 to play with them.
  • Remove tags, strings, and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children. Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches long, because they could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
  • When your child receives a gift, be sure to read the label and instructions. Warning labels give important information about how to use a toy and what ages it is for. Be sure to show your child how to use the toy.
  • Parents should store toys in a designated location, such as on an open shelf or in a bin, and keep older kids' toys away from young children. If you use a toy box, choose one with no lid or a lightweight, non-locking lid and ventilation holes. See Toy Box Safety on HealthyChildren.org for more tips.

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