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As shoppers get into the holiday spirit, keeping a few gift-giving guidelines in mind while picking presents for young ones can help ensure the season is safe as well as merry and bright.

Shopping for children is a bit more complicated than simply choosing a toy from a wish list.


“All toys are not for all children,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Extension housing and consumer specialist and interim associate dean.


Age, skills and interests should play a big role in what ultimately winds up in neatly wrapped boxes topped with colorful bows.


“Read the descriptions, instructions and warning labels on the packaging of toys and games and match them to the child’s age and level of development,” Peek said. “You should also consider the child’s temperament, habits and maturity. A child may be asking for the latest hot toy, but it’s not a good match if it’s not age-appropriate.”


Generally, fabric toys should be labeled as flame resistant or flame retardant. If a budding artist has new art supplies on the list, make sure those items are nontoxic.


Small toys or items containing small pieces and parts are choking hazards for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. As a guideline, if a toy or part of a toy fits inside a toilet paper roll, it is too small for young children.


Be cautious with magnets, too. The U.S. Consumer Product Commission recommends high-powered magnet sets should be not be given to toddlers or teens, while building and play sets featuring small magnets should be kept away from young children.

Other hazards for young ones include toys and games with sharp ends, long strings and parts that could pinch fingers.


Riding toys often are popular options for older children. However, caregivers considering bicycles, scooters, skateboards and other vehicles should include a helmet that meets all current safety standards and safety gear such as hand, wrist, knee and shin guards.


Toy darts and arrows should have soft tips or suction cups on their ends.

“Shopping for children during the holidays is fun,” Peek said. “Following a few smart, easy precautions when choosing their gifts will go a long way toward making sure celebrations are safe as well as enjoyable.”

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