Holiday toy shopping must factor in safety

Hey Santa, listen up. As you’re making your list and checking it twice this holiday season, don’t forget to check for toy safety — especially Internet toys.

That’s right, Bearded One. From your workshop to mega toy-store chains to the Internet, toy safety is paramount — even if your elves have to work a little overtime to assure it.

Chances are, most of the toys from your workshop will be distributed to stores around the world. In the United States, we have the Child Safety Protection Act that requires toy manufacturers to label toys which could pose a threat to youngsters less than 3 years old.

But that doesn’t apply to toys sold on the Internet. Toys sold online must make age-appropriate recommendations but they don’t have to carry the same hazard warnings as toys sold in stores. That might lead some parents to think the toy is safe for their little ones. However, it could have small parts to choke on, strings and cords that could get wrapped around little necks and even toxic chemicals linked to liver and kidney damage. Not the kind of stuff you want to be thinking about this time of year.

We know you’re on information overload right now, Santa — especially after just surviving Thanksgiving and the busiest shopping day of the year. Fortunately, there are organizations out there that do a lot of the work for you. May we recommend the Washington Public Interest Research Group, WashPIRG? You can check out their toy safety information at They talk about everything from consumer tips to a list of potentially hazardous toys. You could even print the information and tuck it between your belt and your bowl full of jelly while you go shopping.

If you’re brave enough to bring an empty toilet roll on shopping excursions, you can conduct your own safety test on some toys for small children. It’s pretty easy. If a ball-like object fits in the tube, it is considered dangerous because it could block a child’s air passage.

Trust us, Santa, it’s all worth the extra effort. We know you’d much rather do the work ahead of time than send Rudolph back to the North Pole to make a last-minute exchange — especially if you’ve lost your receipt.

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