Gift guru Laura Smith, the kids/toy expert at Gifts.com, says that, as a result of massive recalls that plagued major toy companies last year, consumers have had to readjust and reassess their buying choices. "We may ignore the red flags when buying everyday items for ourselves, but when it comes to toys, it should be the number-one thing taken into consideration before making a purchase. The majority of toys come from outside the US and are not put through the same safety testing as domestic products. Kids play with toys every day; they stick them in their mouths, they sleep with them. It's the most common thing they come into contact with each day."
Sandra Gordon, author of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products, says the first step is knowing the toys to avoid. In other words, steer clear of no-name toys and, regardless of your child's age, don't buy toys with small magnets, even if they seem safely contained within the toy. She explains, "If the toy breaks and the magnets fall out, they could be accidentally swallowed. Many of last year's recalls involved toys with dangerous magnets that can damage a child's intestines and stomach lining when swallowed in multiples. Also, don't buy metal jewelry, especially cheap metal jewelry, for young children. A child who mouths or accidentally swallows a piece of lead-laden jewelry -- another frequently recalled product -- can suffer lead poisoning."
Next, Sandra highly recommends buying toys according to your child's age. "Age grading can alert you to a possible choking hazard, the presence of small parts and other dangers. It also relates to a toy's play value. Although you may think a more 'advanced' toy will present a welcome challenge, it could be a source of frustration if it's inappropriate for your child's stage of development."
Think twice before buying a toy with small parts for a child older than 3 who has a younger sibling. She states, "The younger child will probably find a way to get the toy. Keep all small round or oval objects, including coins, balls and marbles, away from kids under 3."
"Be leery of drugstores, airports and dollar stores," notes Sandra. They're known to carry recalled items and flimsy plastic toys with dangerous sharp edges or small parts that break off easily. Secondhand stores are an option because toys are often in excellent condition, though you'll still need to ensure the toys are well made and safe without small magnets or parts that may break loose.
Her overall advice?
Sandra reinforces the importance of keeping abreast of toy recalls: "Staying up to date can help prevent you from buying a recalled toy and remedy the situation if you've already bought one. Once a recalled toy is in your home, it's up to you to keep it away from your family."
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