December is a wonderful time to count down the last days of the year and get in the holiday spirit. It’s also a time to shop for the perfect gifts for the ones you care about. Prevent Blindness America has declared December as Safe Toys and Gifts Awareness Month. This month-long observance encourages everyone to consider if the toys they wish to give suits the age, skills, and abilities of the individual child who will receive it. This is especially important for infants and children under age three.

This holiday season (and beyond), the American Public Health Association recommends everyone to take the following precautions when choosing safe toys for all ages.

  • Inspect all toys before purchasing. Avoid those that shoot or include parts that fly off. The toy should have no sharp edges or points. The item should be sturdy enough to withstand impact without breaking easily.
  • When purchasing toys for children with special needs, try to choose toys that may appeal to different senses, such as sound, movement, and texture. Consider interactive toys to allow the child to play with others. Think about the size of the toy and the position a child would need to be in to play with it.
  • Be diligent about inspecting toys your child has received. Check them for age, skill level, and developmental appropriateness before allowing them to be played with.
  • Look for labels that assure you the toys have passed a safety inspection. “ATSM” means the toy has met the American Society for Testing and Materials standards.
  • Gifts of sports equipment should always be accompanied by protective gear. For example, gift a helmet with a skateboard.
  • Keep kids safe from lead in toys. Educate yourself about lead exposure from toys, symptoms of lead poisoning, and what kinds of toys have been recalled. Be aware that old toys may be more likely to contain lead in the paint. Have your children wash their hands frequently and call your doctor if you suspect your child has been exposed to lead.
  • Do NOT give toys with small parts, including magnets and “button” batteries. These can cause serious injury or death to young children, if ingested. If the piece can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it is not appropriate for kids under age three.
  • Do NOT give toys with ropes and cords or heating elements.
  • Do NOT give crayons and markers unless they are labeled “nontoxic”.

For more information and tips, visit apha.org or visit www.preventblindness.org/safe-toy-checklist