As the holiday gift-giving season marches ahead, so begins our shopping for the toys we enjoy giving the special children in our lives.
Selecting the right toy can be a challenge because there are millions from which to choose and new ones appearing on the shelves each year.
Although toys are intended to be fun, they can pose hazards for users if not soundly designed and constructed or if the toy is not intended for the age of its user.
In 2011, an estimated 262,300 toy-related injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments, 70 percent of which happened to children 12 years old or younger.
Do you know what toys are safe for your child? When evaluating the ones you are considering this year, remember to:
* Consider the child's age, interests and skill level. Look for quality in design and construction, and follow age and safety recommendations on labels.
* Consider purchasing a small parts tester (also known as a choke tube) to determine whether small toys might present a choking hazard to children under the age of 3. Small parts testers or choke tubes can be purchased at toy or baby specialty stores.
* Check the National Safe Kids Campaign web site, www.safekids.org, for updates and information on recent toy recalls.
* Avoid toys with sharp points or edges, toys that produce loud sounds, or projectiles (such as darts, firing rockets).
* Avoid toys with strings, straps or cords longer than seven inches that may pose a risk for strangulation.
* Avoid electric-powered toys with heating elements for children under the age of eight.
* Avoid cap guns as the caps they use can be ignited by the slightest friction and can cause serious burns.
Washington Township Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.