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With all the hysteria created in recent years as a result of high-profile toy recalls or news reports of lead tainted children’s products from China, many people are giving newfound attention to the safety of the toys they purchase for their children. The good news is that even with all the recent debacles, toys are still one of the safest things in your house. Here are some toy-buying safety tips that will ensure it stays that way:

Toy buying safety tip #1: Look for (and do your best to adhere to) age related warnings on the product.

These guidelines are administered because the toy may contain parts that are dangerous to a child under that age, not because a younger child isn’t advanced enough for the toy.

Toy buying safety tip #2: Try to avoid buying toys for children of different ages

The idea that kids can share may save money, but unless you’re certain it’s appropriate for the youngest child to play with, beware.

Toy buying safety tip #3: Beware of cheaply made toys.

Be cautious about toys bought from dollar stores, flea markets, or other discount outlets. These places often carry cheaply made items or unload products that have been recalled. Flimsy toys can also break easily, and broken toys are a leading cause of toy-related injuries. This is especially true of toys with magnets or glued parts, since the glue is often cheap and easily wares off. These type of discount toys are also the most likely to be manufactured in countries with low product standards and might contain contaminants such as lead.

Toy buying safety tip #4: Be cautious about secondhand toys.

Recalled toys are only returned at a rate of 10-15%, meaning that the rest remain out there, and commonly end up in garage sales. So if you purchase something at a yard sale or secondhand store, check it against the CPSC’s database of recalls. Also be sure to look inside packages of secondhand toys before giving them to children. For example, it’s not uncommon to find potentially dangerous items such as thumb tacks or small choking hazards at the bottom of a box of Legos meant for toddlers. In rarer cases, we’ve seen instances of things like needles, drug paraphernalia, or even firearms discovered hidden inside a box of toys purchased at a garage sale. So by all means: re-use and recycle. Just do it safely.

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