A Guide to Buying Safe Gifts for Children

Sharing presents during the holidays is one of life’s greatest joys. Following basic safety precautions helps prevent your loved recipients from being injured. Thousands of children are hurt or killed every year from playing with unsafe or inappropriate toys. December is dedicated as Safe Toys and Gifts Month in an effort to protect children as they learn through play.

New Insights

a boy looks at a box of toys

We continuously learn healthier, safer ways to live as long-term research and innovative technology enlighten us. Often, older generations are unaware of these insights. After all, it’s been a long time since they raised a family. Grandparents sometimes will utter, “It was good enough for my kids. They survived!” Although well-meaning, it is important we all know—and share—the latest safety standards. We must be mindful of the health and safety of our youngest generation.

For purchases you are considering, read reviews from other parents and caregivers to gain insight into the safety and durability of the product. Online reviews and testimonials can provide valuable information about others’ experiences to help you make informed decisions.

3 Musts Before Purchasing Kids Gifts

  1. Make sure the toy or gift is age appropriate. Small parts, button-sized batteries, and fragile construction can cause injury, choking, and even death. Plus, toys that are too advanced for the receiver likely will cause frustration and result in the gift not being used. A child may not have the motor skills or mental development needed to interact with a toy created for someone older. Check the packaging for the suggested age range. Combined with your knowledge of the child, gift accordingly.

  2. Check toys thoroughly. Instinct often tells us if a gift is inappropriate for those on your list. Look for sharp edges, flying parts, ropes, cords, and anything that could easily break, resulting in dangerous pieces. Button-sized batteries are not only a choking hazard but also particularly dangerous if swallowed. If the gift requires batteries, ensure the battery compartment is secure and child-resistant. It is essential to choose toys with secure battery compartments that cannot be easily accessed by a child. A cute plush toy may look soft and lovable; however, button eyes or other parts may come loose over time and be a choking hazard.

  3. Confirm the toy is certified. It should include a stamp from the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) or its overseas equivalent. Art products like paints, markers, and crayons should be labeled as nontoxic. (Bonus if they are washable! Think 3-year-old with fingerpaints.) For electronics (toys for older kids; nightlights and such for younger), a UL (Underwriter Laboratories) certification stamp or its overseas equivalent should be visible.

Be Thoughtful

This is not a reference to prankster siblings who enjoy giving nieces and nephews the loudest toys on the shelf. Rather, it is a suggestion to help make your gift the best it can be. If you give a child athletic equipment like skates or a tricycle/bicycle, remember to include the safety gear (e.g., helmet, elbow/knee pads, or eye protection for science kits).

If the safety accessories are beyond your budget, consider chipping in with others. Kids want to get busy with their new stuff right away. However, without wearing the protective equipment, they should not be allowed. Having to wait can be frustrating for all involved.

Consider Each Child’s Needs

Every person develops at their own pace. When shopping, consider the individual. If you are buying a gift, the recipient is worthy of your time and resources. Go the extra step and ask their parents/guardians for appropriate gift ideas. Perhaps they scare easily, struggle with reading, or love numbers. These are all helpful to know when choosing a special present that fits their personality and developmental stage.

Packaging does not always depict the most accurate image of toys in action. Remember the provided age range is only a suggestion. Often, generalizations are portrayed related to gender, age, and development stage. Kids of all ages and skill levels are pushed to grow up too quickly and according to cultural ideals. The best gifts are the ones they will use, the ones that fit their needs. If that means something atypical, encourage their unique personalities. You may give the gift that inspires their passion.

Be Present

The ultimate gift for every child is company while they play. Your watchful eyes prevent random accidents that can happen even with safely chosen toys. This ensures a safe experience where you also can teach valuable lessons and join the fun.

Looking to Donate?

When shopping for loved ones, if possible, extend the holiday spirit to those in need. Not all children will receive presents, no matter how well-behaved Santa knows they have been.

Boyertown Area Multi Service, the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities, and ACLAMO are among the many nonprofit organizations hosting unique holiday gift drives to benefit children and families in our community this year.

Toys for Tots has several drop-off locations in the area. Visit drop-off locations in Pottstown area or elsewhere to donate what could be the only gift a child will receive. These locations also are a resource to request a toy. And remember to keep it safe!

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