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Toys are the last things parents should have to worry about, but they do. Sometimes products make it to the store shelves only to be recalled down the road. Others fall apart '- and become unexpected hazards '- with lots of loving use. And sometimes big-kid stuff makes it into the little guys' hands. Always adhere to the toy package's suggested age label '- for example, "Not recommended for children under three years." Such labels are there for safety reasons. Follow these additional tips to maintain a safe play environment as your child grows:
- Remove and discard plastic wrappings on toys immediately. The wrappings themselves can suffocate a child (as can uninflated or broken balloons).
- Remove large toys, bumper pads and boxes from inside play yards. An adventuresome child can use such items as a means of climbing, or falling, out.
- Set ground rules for play and supervise young children closely.
- Teach children how to use toys properly and safely.
- Instruct older children to keep their toys away from younger brothers, sisters and friends.
Maintaining toys and inspecting them regularly takes time and effort, but your attention to detail can go a long way toward keeping your children safe. Keep toys in good repair and fix broken toys immediately or discard them altogether. Be sure to:
- Look for jagged, sharp edges, splinters, weak seams or any broken parts that might present a choking hazard. Don't forget to examine toys used outdoors for rust.
- Check movable parts to make sure they're attached securely to the toys; pieces that are safe when attached to a toy can become a danger when detached.
- Check electrical cords and plugs for cracked or fraying parts.
- Sand any sharp or splintered surfaces on wooden toys.
- Use only paint labeled "nontoxic" to repaint toys, toy boxes or children's furniture.
Provide a safe place for children to store toys. Select a toy chest or toy box that is ventilated, is free of self-locking devices that could trap a child inside and has a lid and hinges designed not to pinch fingers or fall on a child's head. If containers other than toy chests are used for storage, ensure that the lids are hinged with spring-loaded support devices to avoid entrapment and suffocation. Teach children to store toys safely in order to prevent injury caused by stepping, tripping or falling on a toy. Playthings meant for older children and adults should be safely stowed away on high shelves, in locked closets or in other areas unavailable to inquisitive younger children.