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As grandparents one of our greatest joys is buying toys and games to give as gifts to our grandchildren. It’s been a long time since our children were little and there are so many wonderful toys to choose from. But since it has been a long time since we thought about the dangers of small parts and sharp edges, maybe it’s time for a refresher course in safety musts for today’s toys.

Children are no longer safe riding their bikes and other riding toys without protective gear. A helmet is an absolute must to avoid head injuries, while knee, elbow and wrist guards are suggested for mountain bike riding. Any active sport such as rollerblading, skateboarding, soccer, or even baseball has protective gear that must be worn at all times.

While it is true that most toy-related injuries are minor cuts, scrapes or bruises, some toys are so dangerous that they are life-threatening. Children may also be injured by a toy if they are not old enough to use it properly. Proper toy selection and proper supervision are both key to keeping children safe while they play.

Here are some things to think about as you select toys for your grandchildren:

Don’t purchase any toy that has sharp pieces or sharp edges. Look for parts of the toy that could pose such a problem if broken.

Any toy with small, loose or broken parts should be avoided for toddlers.

This includes that soft cuddly teddy bear with eyes that can be pulled off and beans or pellets for filling.

Any toy with a string longer than 12 inches may pose a strangulation hazard.

Any toy that shoots or propels a small object can be a danger.

Electric toys, even if UL approved, may still be dangerous if not kept in top condition and used with adult supervision.

Toys such as chemistry sets or other hobby equipment should be kept for children 12 and older and used under careful supervision.

Toys that make loud noises should be avoided.

In general it is a good idea to read labels and packaging information carefully to check for flame retardant materials, lead-free paint, and freedom from toxic plastic parts. Storage of toys should be done with safety in mind as well. Lids on toy chests can fall on children and shelving should be stable. Be sure to discard any toys in your own home when they break. Never allow a toy designed for older children to be used by toddlers or babies. Balloons, marbles, small balls, and magnets are examples of choking hazards for little ones.

The toy safety agency known as WATCH (World Against Toys Causing Harm) puts out an annual list of the ten worst toys along with the reason it is considered a hazard. The 2008 list can be found at:

The next time you are shopping for the perfect toy or game, keep the following questions in mind. Is this toy age appropriate? Is it made of sturdy and safe materials? Does it pose any hazard in terms of choking, puncture or burn, projectile injury or the like. For help in choosing just the right toy for children up to six years of age, look at the following website and its lists of age appropriate toys: It is such a joy to buy gifts for our grandchildren. Let’s be sure we do all we can to protect them and keep them safe as they play.