For kids' sake: Think toy safety

WHEN BUYING TOYS

Choose toys with care. Keep in mind the child's age, interests and skill level.

Look for quality design and construction in all toys for all ages.

Make sure that all directions or instructions are clear -- to you, and, when appropriate, to the child. Plastic wrappings on toys should be discarded at once before they become deadly playthings.

Be a label reader. Look for and heed age recommendations, such as "Not recommended for children under three." Look for other safety labels including: "Flame retardant/Flame resistant" on fabric products and "Washable/hygienic materials" on stuffed toys and dolls.

WHEN MAINTAINING TOYS

Check all toys periodically for breakage and potential hazards. A damaged or dangerous toy should be thrown away or repaired immediately.

Edges on wooden toys that might have become sharp or surfaces covered with splinters should be sanded smooth. When repainting toys and toy boxes, avoid using leftover paint, unless purchased recently, since older paints may contain more lead than new paint, which is regulated by CPSC. Examine all outdoor toys regularly for rust or weak parts that could become hazardous.

WHEN STORING TOYS

Teach children to put their toys safely away on shelves or in a toy chest after playing to prevent trips and falls.

Toy boxes, too, should be checked for safety. Use a toy chest that has a lid that will stay open in any position to which it is raised, and will not fall unexpectedly on a child. For extra safety, be sure there are ventilation holes for fresh air. Watch for sharp edges that could cut and hinges that could pinch or squeeze. See that toys used outdoors are stored after play -- rain or dew can rust or damage a variety of toys and toy parts creating hazards.

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