Keep kids safe from ‘Trouble in Toyland’

Our joyful Sights & Sounds is coming up soon, which my family and I have participated in over the years, and for many, holiday shopping is already underway. There are fewer things more precious in this world than seeing a child light up with a smile. As the holiday season approaches, so does the opportunity for toys that entertain, educate, and inspire the imagination. With four young grandchildren, our family’s gift list once again includes toys. During this busy shopping season, however, parents should remain vigilant about hidden hazards. As recent headlines have shown, some toys can seriously injure children.

Where can parents get guidance?

Each year at this time, I join the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG) to discuss the annual “Trouble in Toyland” report. This report offers safety guidelines for purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. TexPIRG’s research focused on five types of toy dangers: lead and toxic chemicals, choking hazards, dangerous noise levels, data-collecting toys and FBI alert, and overheating of batteries and chargers. In addition to listing a sample of the potential hazards on store shelves, the report offers strategies parents can use to evaluate toy safety. Shoppers should examine all toys carefully for hidden dangers, especially if purchased at a garage sale or flea market.

Rules to remember

Choking hazards remain at the top of the list for accidental death for small children. To avoid choking hazards, remember children three years old and younger should not play with toys that can easily fit through the middle of a toilet paper tube. Similarly, balloons and small balls (smaller than 1.75” in diameter) pose a choking risk. It is important to consider the youngest and most vulnerable member of family when buying gifts. While a doll may be fine for an eight-year-old, small parts, such as accompanying accessories, could be a choking hazard for younger siblings. I remember when our youngest grandson first started crawling around, tasting everything our older granddaughters left accessible. Keeping a close eye on everything reachable for the youngest is vital.

One of my own most memorable gifts was a new bicycle. For others, it may have been new skates or skateboards. In purchases for older children, the best way to avoid serious injuries and expensive medical bills is to buy critical safety equipment, such as helmets or pads and make every effort to see that they are used.

Some toys that have failed safety standards and cannot be sold in stores may still be available without original packaging at flea markets or over the internet. To ensure that a toy meets safety standards, visit toysafetytips.org to read TexPIRG’s full report.

Parents have the most important role

The safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have helped numerous dangerous toys off the shelf. But there is no substitute for a parent’s care. Keeping a watchful eye on children, especially the youngest, can ensure healthy and happy holiday celebrations. From my family to yours, I wish you a joyous holiday season.

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Doggett represents the 35th Congressional District, which includes San Marcos

San Marcos Daily Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666