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Dear Marianne:

We have tons of toys in our house. How can I organize them so my kids get the most play value from them?

Erin, Pittsburgh, Mom of Katie (9), Lizzie (8) Mary (6) Ben and Jacob (4)
The best way to get the most play value is to organize them so that they ARE played with. For example, board games are fun but you really need to have them in sight as a reminder to play oftern. Stack boxes by age groups on a shelf in a room that will encourage social play. Consider the kitchen and family room. Keep them in the box and neatly tape all 4 corners on both the top and bottom of the box. This will help to reinforce the box after multiple uses.

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Toy Safety Guidelines

     According to the most recent data compiled by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, there were 21 toy-related deaths to children and 150,000 injuries (1995 figures). So parents and other adults obviously must be safety experts and examine toys carefully for dangerous components. Also, youngsters model their behavior on adults around them and learn safe play habits from grown-ups. Taking care of toys makes them safer to play with, but it also teaches children responsibility. The tips below may help you when choosing and maintaining toys for the children in your life.

• Follow recommended age ranges found on toy packaging. These ranges are developed because of safety and developmental issues.

• Look for other package warnings such as "small pieces," "toxic," or "requires supervision."

• For children under age three, avoid toys with small parts, sharp points or rough edges.

• Check for sturdy, well-sewn seams on stuffed animals and dolls. Be sure the eyes, noses and other decorations can1t be bitten or pulled off.

• Look for labels such as "machine washable" and "surface washable" and, on electric toys, "UL [Underwriters Laboratories] Approved."

• To prevent a child from becoming trapped or pinching fingers, purchase toy storage that has a removable lid or a hinge that allows the top to remain open.

• Supervise the use of balloons with any child under the age of six.

• Remove and discard all packaging from a toy before allowing a small child to play with it.

     If you feel you have an unsafe toy at home, call 1-800-929-TOYS or report it to the Consumer Product Safety Commission in Washington, D.C. at 1-800-638-2772.
Toy Safety Tips

     Toy safety should be an important part of the decision-making when it's time to buy toys for children. Consider the following guidelines when choosing a toy.1. The toy should be DURABLE, made of strong materials that can withstand chewing.2. Infants and small children tend to put things in their mouths. Rattles with long handles shaped like a lollipop pose the potential for choking. They do NOT pass U.S. safety regulations. Be sure everything you give a child is safe enough to go into the mouth.

3. Any toy given to children under age 3 should be free of small parts that they might put in their mouths and choke on. Check the eyes, noses, and other small parts on stuffed toys and dolls to be sure they can't be ripped off the toy and end up in a child1s mouth.

4. Detachable doll clothes are not suitable for children under age 3. And any doll clothes should be made of a flame-resistant material such as polyester. (Cotton is flammable.) Stuffed toys should be filled with a soft, pure stuffing. If you are unsure of the type of fabric, call the manufacturer before making the purchase. Most toy companies have an 800 number printed directly on the package.

5. Toys shouldn't have jagged edges or sharp pieces that can prick a finger or injure any other part of the body.

6. Loud musical toys or other loud toys can damage a child's hearing if used for an extended period of time.

7. Video toys or toys that shoot objects can endanger the eyes, so adults should monitor any use of these toys to keep situations safe.

8. Electrical toys and toys with corroded batteries can cause harmful or fatal injury so adults should supervise the use of these toys and explain the potential dangers to children.

9. All firearms, B.B. guns, slingshots, bows with arrows, and motorized vehicles, regardless of size, are not toys. If children want to use them they should wear protective gear and be supervised by adults or they may suffer severe injury or even death.

10. All painted toys, toys to develop art ability, and toys containing liquids should be NON-TOXIC. If not, don't buy them.Happy Toy Shopping!






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