Monday, November 28, 2011

Toy Safety and Holiday Decorating Safety Tips

by Cheryl Ledford

The holiday season has officially begun.  This is a time of decorating your homes, shopping, and celebrations.  Safe Guilford and Safe Kids Guilford County would like to share some safety tips that will help you keep your family safe during the holidays. 

Did you know, there are approximately 15 toy-related deaths in children each year and over 200,000 toy-related injuries?  Many of these deaths occur from young children choking on small play balls and balloons.  Many toy injuries occur when the parents overestimate the child's ability to handle a toy designed for an older age group.  To avoid possible injuries, parents and gift givers should make sure to buy age-appropriate toys.  All Toys have age information clearly marked on the packaging, and also advise if they have small parts that aren't appropriate for children 3 and under.  If in doubt about the safety of the toy pieces, use a small parts tester or a toilet paper roll to see if the parts fit through the roll.  If the parts goes through the roll, the toy pieces are a choking hazaard for children 3 and under. 

Other toy-related injuries occur from ride-on or wheeled toys.  Riding toys such as scooters, tricycles, in-line skates, powered and un-powered wheeled toys are associated with more injuries than any other toy group.  If you plan to give the gift of a wheeled toy, make sure to give a proper fitting helmet specifically designed for that particular wheeled toy.  Helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent.

So how do parents know if the toys they purchase are safe? First, inspect the toys after you take them out of the packaging and periodically to make sure they are in good working order.  Make sure stuffed animals’ eyes, noses, and attachments are tightly secured.  You can also check the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at to check for safety recalls.  The site also has Safety News and Recall email sign-ups as well.  Parents need to actively supervise their children when they are playing with any toys.  Active supervision means keeping the child in sight and reach and paying undivided attention.  If your children are playing with toys that have small or moving parts, electrical or battery operated, and wheeled, they need your attention.

For families with younger and older children, teach the older children to "Practice Proper Storage".  Have the children put toys away after playing, to help prevent falls and younger children from playing with toys that have small parts.  Toy chests should be equipped with safety hinges that prevent the lid from closing on a child who is leaning over the chest and from closing on their fingers. Also, any toys with strings, straps, or cords longer than 7 inches can be a strangulation hazard to a child, as they are designed for older children.  Keep these toys out of the reach of the smaller children.

We should all be mindful to be safe while decorating our homes.  Never leave a lit Christmas Tree or other decorative lighting unattended.  Make sure to inspect the lights and cords for exposed wires or electrical shortages before decorating.  Only use lights and extension cords designed for outdoor use when decorating outdoors.  Also, be sure to use power strips when plugging in multiple lights to avoid overloading the outlets.

If you plan to have a natural Christmas Tree, make sure to water the tree daily and check frequently for freshness.  Avoid placing the tree near a fire place or near lit candles.  Candles should never be left unattended when lit and never placed near decorations or curtains.  If you have small children and pets, decorate with them in mind.  Keep decorations or ornaments with small parts and metal hooks out of their reach.  Trim protruding branches at or below child’s eye level.  You may want to consider buying a special safety gate that surrounds the tree and keeping small children and pets from touching the tree.  Parents and caregivers need to supervise their children and pets at all times when around the tree.

Another potential hazaard to be aware of during the holidays is the seasonal plants. As beautiful as they are, Holly berries, mistletoe berries, poinsettias, amaryllis, boxwood, Christmas rose, Crown of Thorns, English ivy, and Jerusalem cherry are all potentially harmful if eaten.  Keep these plants out of the reach of your children and pets.

Last but not least, when having gatherings with your friends and family, keep glasses and containers with alcohol out of the reach of children.  Don't leave glasses unattended or at child's reach while celebrating with your family and friends.

Now that you have these safety tips in hand, you'll be able to prepare for a safe holiday season for your family.  Safe Guilford and Safe Kids Guilford County would like to wish you and your family a Happy Holidays!


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