Blind World Magazine

Caution Urged When Buying Holiday Toys and Gifts.

December 11, 2005.
Prevent Blindness America.

It's that time of year again when the holiday toy shopping rush gets into full swing. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles will try to make the season special by giving the perfect gift. But, not every toy on the child's wish list may be the safest.

In fact, in 2004 the Consumer Product Safety Commission states that there were 210,300 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms. And close to 6,000 of those were injuries to the eyes of children under the age of 15. Contusions and abrasions accounted for 64 percent of those injuries, with the remainder being chemical burns, foreign bodies, lacerations, punctures, hemorrhages, dermatitis/conjunctivitis and other diagnoses.

Toy injuries can happen in a variety of ways, including poor construction, age- inappropriate toys and incorrect usage. Many times, injuries occur by simply tripping over toys or by younger siblings playing with toys that are not intended for them when their parents aren't looking. There were more injuries from the misuse of pens, pencils and other art supplies than any other category. That is why it is so important to closely monitor children during all of their activities.

"During the busy holiday season it's important to take the time to make sure the gift you're giving is the best choice," said Daniel D. Garrett, senior vice president of PBA. "The emergency room is no place to spend the holidays!"

Prevent Blindness America has declared December as Safe Toys and Gifts Month and is urging all toy buyers to read the labels and pay attention to what their children are playing with.

The group offers free fact sheets and safety tips on toy safety as well as a new DVD for children entitled "Play it Safe with Your Eyes!" The DVD features Iris and Ira, two puppet characters that make learning about the importance of eye safety easy and fun for young viewers. It is available in English and Spanish languages for $19.95 plus shipping charges.

PBA suggests the following tips to help make this holiday season a safe one for children:

Inspect toys for safe construction. Products given to young children should be made of durable plastic or wood with no sharp edges or points. The toys should be able to withstand impact. Avoid purchasing toys for young children with small parts, as they tend to put items in their mouths, increasing their risk of choking.

Check your children's toys regularly for broken parts. Throw broken toys out immediately if they cannot be safely repaired. Older kids often alter their toys and misuse them, making them unsafe. It is better to be vigilant, even with older kids, so that serious eye injuries can be prevented.

Read the instructions and the suggested age level on the packaging. Assess whether the item is appropriate for the child's ability and age. Age labeling is provided not just for developmental reasons, but for safety reasons as well.

Look for the symbol ASTM F963. This indicates the product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Make recommendations to family members and friends about gifts that you feel are appropriate for your child.

Remain aware of recalled products. Large toy retailers post regular notices of recalled toys usually at the front of their stores. Take recalled products back to the store where they were purchased for a full refund. For further information on toy and product recalls, visit the U.S. Product Safety Commission Web site at

Remove hazards in the car. As many families will be traveling by car this holiday season, make sure children are properly secured in baby carriers and child safety seats, and the seat and shoulder belts fit well. Children age 12 and younger should never ride in the front seat. And remember to store loose items in the trunk or secure them on the floor as any loose object can become a missile in a crash.

For more information in both English and Spanish on safe toys and gifts or to order the new "Play It Safe with Your Eyes!" DVD, click here or call 1-800-331-2020.

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