The biggest threat to the health of children older than 1 year is not disease, it’s accidental injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year thousands of children suffer injuries from toys severe enough to be treated in a hospital emergency room.

Your challenge is to find toys that your children will enjoy and that you know are safe.

These simple guidelines can help keep the holiday season safe for your youngsters:

Avoid toys that shoot or have parts that fly off.

Choose toys made of durable materials with no sharp edges or points.

Don’t give young children toys with small parts. Youngsters tend to put things in their mouths. This increases the risk of choking.

Choose age-appropriate toys. Age labeling is provided for developmental and safety reasons.

Select toys to suit a child’s abilities, skill and interest level.

To avoid serious ear injury, don’t buy toys that make a loud or shrill noise.

Choose well-made stuffed animals. The eyes, noses and other small parts should be fastened securely.

Never buy hobby kits, like chemistry sets, for children younger than age 12.

Look for the letters ASTM. These indicate that a toy or product meets the national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Tips to avoid playtime mishaps

Here are suggestions for safe play:

— Explain and demonstrate how to use toys.

— Keep toys for older children away from younger ones.

— Throw away packaging immediately. Sharp staples and plastic bags can cause injuries and are safety hazards.

— Make sure children play in safe areas and, if appropriate, under supervision.

— Make a list of safety rules and share them with your children. If your youngsters are playing with friends, remind everyone of your safety rules.

— Inspect older toys for broken or sharp edges, loose parts and loose strings or ribbons.

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month. We want children and their families to be safe this holiday season.

This week’s Health Talk column was submitted by Rutland Regional Medical Center.

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