Children learn by playing. For infants, the right toys can help them discover their world as they develop their senses. For example, a brightly colored toy can stimulate a baby's sense of sight. Toys with textures can teach an infant about his or her sense of touch; toys with different sounds can help promote a baby's sense of hearing.
But it's essential that parents, grandparents or anyone choosing a toy for a child, pick a toy with safety as a key priority. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends special precautions for children under three, in particular that all parts be bigger the 1-1/4 inches in diameter and over 2-1/4 inches in length in order to reduce the risk of choking. In addition, avoid potentially toxic materials. Look for toys that are both lightweight and sturdy. If older children are in the house, make sure they too understand how important it is to keep potentially harmful objects away from the infant.
In choosing toys for infants still in the crib, the Toy Manufacturers of America suggest that you:
* Remove mobiles or anything that hangs above the crib once an infant reaches 5 months or starts to push up on his or her hands.
* Never attach crib toys, rattles or any other objects with strings or cords, in order to avoid the possibility of the cord wrapping around the baby's neck or feet.
* Inspect any toys before placing them in a crib to make sure there are no parts that could fall off, posing a potential choking hazard.
* Use caution with stuffed toys and animals, making sure they have seams that won't come apart or get easily torn.
Lead in toys
One issue that concerns many parents is the potential presence of lead in toys. Unfortunately, there is really no reliable way for a consumer to test a toy for the presence of lead. the sensitivity of testing kits available to consumers varies, with many false positives as well as false negatives. CPSC suggests paying attention to news reports and monitoring government websites for updated information on product recalls. If you have purchased any toys that have been recalled, the products should be removed and returned . AAP also indicates that the largest source of lead in children is not toys, but paint, and urges precautions in this area.
Learning while playing
In addition to keeping these safety reminders in mind, look for toys that can help stimulate an infant's five senses, as well as toys that give them a chance to see for themselves how things work and how actions can lead to outcomes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has these suggestions for toys:
* brightly-colored, lightweight toys that appeal to your baby's sight, hearing, and touch
* cloth, plastic, or board books with large pictures
* large blocks of wood or plastic
* soft, washable animals, dolls, or balls
* bright, movable objects that are out of baby's reach
* busy boards
* floating bath toys
* squeeze toys
The AAP points out that children, especially babies, have sensitive hearing. Loud and shrill noises made by toys can damage sensitive ears.
Of course, it's not only the toys, but the cribs that parents should be concerned about too. the space between crib bars should never exceed 2-3/8 inches. That's because a wide space could let a baby slip through and possibly get trapped. Mattresses should fit directly against the sides of the crib. Mattresses should be protected with pads, never plastic. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the following safety tips to ensure that babies under 24 months sleep safely:
* Don't place a baby to sleep in an adult bed. The baby could become entrapped between the bed & wall, or in headboards, footboards or bed frames. Babies could also fall or suffocate in soft bedding.
* Place babies to sleep on their backs in a crib that meets current safety standards and has a firm, tight-fitting mattress. If you use a portable crib or playpen, make sure it meets current safety standards. Use only the mattress or pad provided by the manufacturer.
* Babies should be placed to sleep on their backs, not their stomachs. babies sleeping on their stomachs seem to be more likely to succumb to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
* Don't place a baby to sleep on soft bedding. The baby could suffocate. Do not use soft bedding such as pillows and thick quilts and comforters for infants under 12 months old.
* Be sure the crib is far enough away from any windows so that an infant cannot reach curtain or drapery cords. Babies have died of strangulation and suffocation after a cord became wrapped around their necks.
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