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Published on December 13, 2011

Safe Toys and Gifts Month: Toy-Buying Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe

It’s the holiday season, and we all know what that means — endless shopping for toys and gifts for the ones we love! When shopping for children, it’s important to remember to read the safety and age regulations associated with that gift.

“With recent toy recalls because of lead paint, choking hazards and injuries, parents, and those of us buying gifts for children, should always keep the safety of toys and gifts in mind,” says Christopher Stenberg, BHB, M.B.Ch.B., FAAP, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Never buy toys that have small parts and sharp edges for small children. Also, always make sure that when buying art supplies — like markers and paint — that they are labeled as non-toxic.”

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 that younger children, if they’re not being watched closely, may play with toys purchased for older children. Here are some guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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. The label “ASTM” means that the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.

Keep Away from Lead:

“Some older toys and toys that are imported from other countries may have high levels of lead in the paint or in the plastic,” says David Kleiman, M.D., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. “Because children have the habit of touching their mouths and eyes, they can expose themselves to the paint or dust. Even trace amounts of lead can harmful to children.”

Because it’s hard to know exactly what toys might be dangerous, the CDC recommends the following tips to help you protect your kids:

  • 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 healthcare provider if you suspect that 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.

For toy hazard recalls, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s page at For toy safety shopping tips, visit

For information about Crozer-Keystone’s Pediatric Services, or to find a physician who is right for you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit

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