December is National Safe Toys and Gifts Month


With their children’s wish lists in hand, millions of parents head to the stores or jump online in December to score some coveted toys for the upcoming holidays. Before you add anything to your cart, take a moment to review what makes for a safe, age-appropriate toy.

The advocacy group Prevent Blindness provides a safe toy checklist on their website, where they focus on eye injury prevention. Their suggestions include:

  • Prior to purchasing, read all warnings and instructions on the box. Inspect toys for safe, sturdy construction.
  • Ask yourself if the toy is right for your child’s ability and age. Keep young children away from toys meant for older children.
  • Avoid purchasing toys with sharp or rigid points, spikes, rods, or dangerous edges.
  • Buy toys that will withstand impact and not break into dangerous shards.
  • Look for the letters “ASTM.” This designation means the product meets the national safety standards set by ASTM International.
  • Avoid toys that shoot or include parts that fly off. Remember that BB guns are NOT toys.

KidsHealth from the Nemours Foundation also recommends:

  • Toys made of fabric should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant.
  • Stuffed toys should be washable.
  • Painted toys must use lead-free paint and art materials should say nontoxic.

Both Prevent Blindness and KidsHealth emphasize the best practice of supervised play. As KidsHealth puts it, “After you’ve bought safe toys, it’s also important to make sure kids know how to use them. The best way to do this is by supervising kids as they play. This teaches kids how to play safely while having fun.”

But that good advice doesn’t apply to parents exclusively. Because the holiday season also means social events for the grown-ups, there’s a good chance there will be a babysitter at your home over the coming weeks. Your babysitter should follow the same best practices for toy safety and supervision that you do. Consider sharing the following information with your sitter:

Supervising Children – Tips for the Babysitter

Children need close, focused supervision the entire time you are babysitting. Stay in the same room with the kids.

If you need to leave the room to use the restroom or help a child to do so, make sure the kids are somewhere safe.

  • Tell an older child that you are going to the bathroom and you will be right back.
  • Place an infant or toddler in a crib, playpen, or pack-and-play. If there isn’t a safe spot to place the baby, bring him with you and place him on the floor near you on a clean blanket or towel.
  • Never leave a baby or toddler unattended on a high chair, couch, or changing table, even for a second.
  • Never leave a child alone outside or on an­other floor of the house.
  • During playtime, always supervise a baby on the floor and pay attention to the baby’s cues that she is ready for a different activity.

It is wrong for you take photos, use social media, nap, watch videos, or call or text your friends while babysitting instead of focusing on the children.

Limit your cell phone use:

  • Only talk or text with your parents or the parents you are working for.
  • Answer when children are safe and busy.
  • Ignore calls or notifications from friends.

Remember, taking care of a child is the biggest responsibil­ity there is, and dangerous situations can happen without warning.