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Toy Buying Tips For The Holidays

by Janell Mayo Duncan, President and Founder of Living Well Black

The holiday season is in full swing. As you scour the shelves to find the best presents for the kids, you should follow some simple rules to avoid toy hazards. Here are some “dos” and “don’ts”:


Buy Toys Appropriate for Your Child’s Age.  Children’s toys often have a recommended age range on the label called “age grading.” It is best to buy a toy for which your child’s age falls into range on the label because it is matched to their developmental stage and safety needs.  For example, toys for children under 3 years old are tested to make sure they can withstand tough treatment by an infant or toddler without breaking and creating small choking hazards, sharp edges, or other dangers. Recommended age ranges for older children also take into account safety issues, as well as their developmental stages.

Provide Safety Equipment with Recreational Toys. When buying presents like tricycles, bicycles, in-line skates and scooters, make sure to buy the necessary protective equipment like helmets, wrist guards and knee pads.


Buy Toys That Are Too loud. Some toys are loud enough to cause hearing damage. Make sure the toys you purchase are not too loud. Toys reaching the 90 decibel level are as loud as a lawn mower – and if held close to the ear they can expose a child to even louder and more painful volumes.

Buy Toys with Small Powerful Magnets. If swallowed, small powerful magnets like those found in Buckeyballs™ and other toys can attract each other inside a child’s intestines and cause serious tissue damage requiring surgery. These magnets can be dangerous for infants to teenagers. Babies who find them like to put them in their mouths, and older children have been known to put them on their noses on their mouths to imitate a body piercing. 
Buy Strangulation Hazards. For older children, avoid toys like yo-yo balls, which when children swing around, have been known to and wrap around a child’s neck and tighten up.

For infants, avoid toys with strings or cords longer than 7 inches long.

Buy Certain Toys That Might Cause Eye Damage. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates lasers, including those in toys. Lasers in toys like “light sabers,” toy gun sights, and spinning tops can cause eye damage if it shines into the eyes. If you purchase this type of toy look for a label saying that it complies with FDA regulation “21 C.F.R. Subchapter J” and make sure your children do not shine the laser in anyone’s eyes.

Take care when purchasing toys that fire bullets and other items – even made out of foam. If necessary, make sure your children’s eyes are protected.

-- Janell Mayo Duncan, President and Founder of Living Well Black, is a Mocha Mom, attorney, and consumer health and safety expert.  You can read this and additional articles at  An earlier version of this article appears in All American Parents at

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