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December is a time where the kids write their wish lists and people pack the malls. Gift-giving is fun: from the hunt for the gift to watching the child tear through the wrapping paper and light up with a smile when the toy becomes visible. Sometimes lost in all this fun, however, is the issue of safety.

It’s estimated that toys spur upward of 250,000 emergency room visits annually, with the clear majority affecting those 15 years of age or younger. Additionally, millions of toys are recalled each year because of safety concerns such as lead paint and small magnets. Since December is such an active gift-giving month, it’s aptly promoted as National Safe Toys and Gifts Month.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has implemented a toy safety system that requires testing by independent, third-party testing laboratories that enforce a stringent lead and phthalates limits, impose high standards and stops dangerous toys before they enter the marketplace. Even with these standards in place, it shouldn’t stop you from considering potential safety hazards when purchasing a gift for a child.

For example, ensure the toy you are purchasing falls within the appropriate age range and is suitable for the child’s ability. Furthermore, read all the warnings and instructions for the toy and even consider researching other people’s experiences with it online before purchasing. Perhaps the most important tidbit to remember during the purchasing stage of gift-giving is avoid toys with small bits and pieces when buying for a young child – since they tend to put things into their mouths, increasing the risk of choking. A good rule of thumb is if the piece can fit inside a toilet paper roll, it’s likely not appropriate for a child under age three.

When the time comes for the children to rip off that wrapping paper and play all day, there are still a few safety-related things to run through. Once it’s open, perform a quick inspection for safe, sturdy construction and explain how to properly play with the toy. It’s a great opportunity to interact and play with your child!

It’s a joyous time of year and just a little extra assiduous attention during the gift-giving process can ensure it stays that way. Have a safe and happy holiday season!