Whether they're wrapped under a tree or exchanged with the lighting of a candle, giving gifts to children is a favorite part of winter holidays.
When choosing a toy for a child, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the toy be appropriate for the child's age and stage of development. This makes it more likely the toy will engage the child -- and reduces the risk it could cause injury.
If you are shopping for a toy for a child this holiday season, here are a few tips from the AAP.
1. Read the label. Warning labels give important information about how to use a toy and what ages the toy is safe for. Be sure to show your child how to use the toy the right way.
2. Look for learning toys. When choosing gifts for babies and toddlers, consider toys that will build developmental skills. Toys that can be manipulated, such as shape sorters, stacking blocks, and baby-safe puzzles, are great for developing fine motor, cognitive, and perceptual skills.
3. Think LARGE. If you are buying a toy for a child under age 3, make sure all toys and parts are larger than the child's mouth to prevent choking.
4. Avoid toys that shoot objects into the air. They can cause serious eye injuries or choking.
5. Avoid toys that are loud to prevent damage to your child's hearing.
6. Be cautious about toys containing button batteries or magnets. Children can have serious stomach and intestinal problems -- including death -- after swallowing button batteries or magnets, which can be in small electronics and building toy sets. Keep button batteries and magnets away from young children.
7. Look for stuffed toys that are well made. Make sure all the parts are on tight and seams and edges are secure. It should also be machine washable. Take off any loose ribbons or strings to avoid strangulation. Avoid toys that have small bean-like pellets or stuffing that can cause choking or suffocation if swallowed.
8. Avoid toys with toxic materials that could cause poisoning. Make sure the label says "nontoxic."
9. Avoid hobby kits and chemistry sets for any child younger than 12 years. They can cause fires or explosions and may contain dangerous chemicals. Make sure an older child knows how to safely handle these kinds of toys.
10. Electric toys should be "UL Approved." Check the label to be sure. To prevent burns and electrical shocks, do not give children under age 10 a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
11. Be careful when buying crib toys. Soft objects should be kept out of the crib. Any hanging crib toy (mobiles, crib gyms) should be out of the baby's reach, and must be removed when a baby first begins to push up on his or her hands and knees or when the baby is 5 months old, whichever occurs first. These toys can strangle a baby.
12. Make a plan for tech use. If you are considering a digital device for a child or teen, such as a tablet, smartphone or game system, think about the purpose of the device and the rules you want to set around its use.
For more information on holiday and toy safety, visit HealthyChildren.org.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatrics in Elk Grove Village. For more information, visit www.healthy children.org.