2004-11-26 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey Pheffer
Audrey Pheffer It is official: the holidays are upon us. The department stores are decorated in their holiday finest, the card shops are brimming with festive cards, and kids everywhere are compiling their wish lists. However, most children’s wish lists are not compiled with safety in mind, so here are a few toy safety tips to consider as you head out to tackle your holiday shopping.

One important step in promoting a child’s safety is to choose toys that are well suited to the child’s developmental level. Most toys are labeled with a “recommended age” sticker, but this should be seen as a starting point in the purchasing process. Toys that incorporate projectiles may be labeled as age appropriate for children over the age of four, but if the child is an immature six year old, a different toy might be more appropriate despite the toy’s label. Similarly, if you are shopping for a three year old who still places toys in their mouth, it would be best to not purchase toys that include small parts, regardless of the age recommendation on the label. This extends to bicycles as well. Many parents buy their child’s bicycle a size too large to avoid purchasing another next year, but this can lead to injury if the child is unable to control the larger bike.

When shopping for infants and toddlers, there are several things to consider. In order to avoid possible choking hazards, children under the age of three should not be given any toys with removal parts smaller than their mouths. If you are unsure, try to pass the toy or toy part through a toilet paper roll. If the item passes through, it is not safe. Also, make sure that all toys are well constructed and in good condition. All stuffed animals should be sewn together securely, and should not have any decorations or parts that could easily be removed by a child and put into his or her mouth. Avoid toys that incorporate cords longer than twelve inches; such cords can pose a potential choking hazard.

Adults also need to exercise caution when purchasing toys for older children and adolescents. Miniature motorcycles, also known as pocket bikes, are an item likely to appear on wish lists this year. These bikes have become increasingly popular, but they have raised a number of safety concerns. According to the December 2004 edition of Consumer Reports, these bikes are often plagued by poorly functioning brakes, difficult handling, and sluggish throttles. Furthermore, motorists are often unable to see bike riders since the pocket bike’s seat is less than two feet from the ground. The bikes are also loud enough to cause hearing damage. Additionally, the safety features on the pocket bikes are not guaranteed since the features are currently not checked or inspected by a government agency. The bikes do not meet federal safety standards for street legal vehicles. If you do decide to purchase a pocket bike, or any other bike or motorized vehicle for your child, be sure they wear appropriate safety gear, including a helmet that fits securely.

For more information on pocket bikes, consult the December 2004 issue of Consumer Reports, which can also be viewed by the website’s subscribers at www.consumerreports.com. For more information on toy safety, consider visiting www.family.msn.com, www.webmd.com, or www.toysafety. com.

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