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Santa’s Safe Gift Guide

By Micah Ryan. M.D.

Young boy playing with a ring stack in front of the Christmas tree

​Agriculturalists have the Farmer’s Almanac and journalists have the AP Stylebook, but this is for you, parents – Santa’s Safe Gift Guide: tips and tidbits for a happy and safe gift-giving season.

Stay on the nice list – follow the rules.

Abide by the age levels recommended on toys. This label is not developed based on the concept of intelligence, but rather the stage that the child is at in developmental terms. For example, young children tend to put everything they can get their hands on in their mouths; therefore, toys with small parts are considered inappropriate for them. It can be easy to forget, but video games have recommended age levels as well. Games such as Call of Duty or HALO are rated M, which means that the game is not suitable for children 16 and under.

Age recommendations should be available for both in-store and online shopping.

Do not forget to consider the younger sibling who is excited to play with big sibling’s toys as well.

Keep clear throats for Christmas caroling.

When deciding if a toy has parts that are too small, it may be helpful to have a small parts tester, a tube that is approximately the size of a young child’s throat. If the toy fits completely in the device, it is too small for a child under the age of 3. If you don’t have a small parts tester handy, a toilet paper tube is a close reference or measuring 1 ¾ inches.

There’s a recall list, and you should check it twice.

When picking a gift, be sure to check out the Consumer Safety Protection Commission (CSPC) to confirm that it is not on the recall list. Keep in mind that even if it is, there may be a remedy or replacement provided by the toy company to make the toy safe to give as a gift.

Tips from the Workshop

  • If you buy a ride-on toy or scooter, make sure that the child is also equipped with proper protective gear. To ensure that it is worn, you can buy a qualified product that has a cool design and be a good role model by wearing your own protective gear when taking part in activities like bike riding. Regardless of what gear the child has, accidents can still happen; so supervision when using the ride-on is very important.
  • Enlist your older elves…or children…to help. Often toys that are appropriate for one sibling may be dangerous for another. Store these toys out of reach for the child who is not allowed to use them and educate the older child about protecting the younger sibling. Keep this in mind with your things as well! Sometimes products we don’t even consider, like remotes with easy-open battery compartments, can be dangerous for children. Swallowing a button battery is considered a medical emergency!
  • Balloons can be festive, but dangerous. Deflated and popped balloons are a choking hazard, so try not to have broken pieces and empty balloons lying around within the reach of a young child.
  • High-powered magnet toys can be dangerous for children and teens. One magnet swallowed is annoying, but if two are swallowed, they may attempt to reconnect in the body, ripping through intestinal walls while doing so. (Teens will know to not eat the magnets, but instances have been reported of the magnets being swallowed while using them as fake tongue piercings.)
  • Art supplies can have some toxic components, always read the label before allowing your kids to use them.
  • Think ahead and also buy containers/bins that items can safely be stored in and placed on a shelf. This is especially important for older sibling toys.
  • Once gifts are open, dispose of packing material that can pose a hazard to kids who don’t understand the dangers of sharp objects and potentially-suffocating plastics.