Whether it's due to the demands of commercial-addled kids or the good intentions of exuberant gift-givers, the concept of toy safety is often lost over the holidays.
But safety considerations should be at the top of any wish list.
The message is: include safety gear with any sports-related gifts, and try to buy age-appropriate toys. The chances of your kids receiving age-inappropriate gifts or gifts that don't include proper safety equipment increase over the holidays when many gift givers are relatives or friends not used to buying for children.
Labels often ignored
It's important that you advise friends to read the labels on toys because they are usually a decent guide for gift-givers who are buying for children they don't know.
And if some unusual, second-hand toy happens to catch a shopper's eye, even more caution is needed. It's not uncommon for toys that have been recalled or are no longer considered safe to wind up on consignment-shop shelves.
Choking on small toy parts is a particular concern, and that includes Latex balloons.
Toys that should be avoided
Here are some other types of toys that should be avoided, according to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign:
Toys with small, removable parts. The parts can pose a choking hazard to children under age 3. Use a small parts tester - it can be purchased at a toy or baby specialty store - to measure the size of the toy or part. If the piece fits inside the tube, then it is considered a choking hazard.
Toys with sharp points or edges. Children may unintentionally cut themselves or another person.
Toys that produce loud noises. Toy guns and high-volume portable cassette recorders can permanently impair a child's hearing.
Propelled toy darts and other projectiles. They can cause cuts or serious eye injuries.
Toys with strings, straps or cords longer than 7 inches. Long strings and cords can become wrapped around a child's neck and strangle him or her.
Electric toys. These are a potential burn hazard. Avoid toys with a heating element battery or electrical plugs if your children are under the age of 8.
Toys painted with lead paint. Exposure can result in lead poisoning, causing serious damage to a child's brain, kidneys and nervous system.
Toy cap guns. Paper roll, strip or ring caps can be ignited by the slightest friction and cause burns.
(Health24, updated December 2010)