Child Safety Month Tips

Did you know that September is National Baby Safety Month? That doesn’t necessarily mean that baby safety should be overlooked the rest of the year, It just means that September is the month when we should be extra careful with baby safety. It's a time when one should be mindful to check the cupboards and the electric outlets to make sure they're baby-proof—just  like you change the battery in your smoke detector when Daylight Saving Time begins and ends.

So, here it is September, or almost, and it's time to think extra hard about babies and children and keeping them safe. Safety, though, is a huge issue as it should be, particularly when it concerns children and products for children. Of all the concerns expressed by parents and caregivers, knowing that the products they are buying are safe is always at the top of the list.

The good news is that you can be assured that if a product is from a known manufacturer and is sold in the U.S. it is meeting some of the highest safety standards in the world. That means pull tests, bite tests, materials tests and a variety of other toy testing lab tests, and almost everything that can be done to simulate the intended use of a product. Read the label on the product and if it says it's for a certain age, it's been tested for that age. Moreover, every product that has small parts is required by law to bear a black-and-white box on the package that advises that the product has small parts and is not intended for children under three.

Note the word "intended" in the paragraph above, however. The overwhelming majority of accidents and injuries that are "toy-related" (as opposed to "toy caused") come either from neglect or misuse. In fact, the

number one most common cause of toy-related injuries comes from people tripping over them. Hence, stepping on a LEGO brick at two in the morning as you wander mole-like around the house is not "caused" by the LEGO brick, but is "related to it." It is a fine distinction, but an important one when it comes to the law.

So how do you ensure that toys and play remain safe and wholesome? First and foremost, make sure that the toys are age appropriate for the child for whom they are intended. Second, supervise play. This doesn't mean

hanging over everything a child does, but it means making sure that a child knows the proper way to use a toy, that he or she "cleans up" the toy (avoiding that LEGO toe-stubbing) and be aware of the children as they are playing outside.

Check your children's toys regularly. Getting banged up comes with the territory, but if something is broken, take it away. If a beloved stuffed animal is fraying, stitch it up. Around the house, baby proof and child proof products are great and can keep little fingers from pulling open cabinet doors or sticking things in outlets (more on that in a moment). Children are naturally curious and for a toddler, everything is a toy.

Read directions when assembling things. Really. You may have a degree in engineering and that's great, but if there is a screw left over because you thought, "Well, I can just follow the picture on the box," that's not such a good idea.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, use common sense. If a child is riding a bike, insist on all necessary protective gear. Make—and enforce—ground rules about play. And remember that kids are going to test ground

rules; that's part of what they do. When it comes to safety, it's all right if your kids think you're a big meanie if the result is that they are safer. Don't be swayed by the fact that the neighbor kids are allowed to skateboard without kneepads, for example. You can't protect children from everything that happens to them, nor would you want to. Experience is how children learn.

Toy companies have full departments devoted to safety, and toys are checked at toy testing labs at every step along the way so when you buy them you can be confident. Toy companies are quick to announce voluntary recalls when something goes wrong, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission has a wonderful Web site for recalls. Of the more than 150,000 toys on the market at any time in the U.S., there are perhaps only a dozen or so recalls a year—and most of those are precautionary.

Your role in a child's safety with toys is really the most important factor and makes a vital difference. Take the time to examine, supervise and communicate with your kids and every month can be a safety month.

Sumer Time Fun and Safety


Summertime - Making the Living Easy

There are probably few feelings as delightful - or liberating - as those first days of summer vacation when the whole summer seems to stretch out in front of you and the pressures of school are lifted - at least for a few months. This is an incredible time for play and fun - and there always lots to do. Of course, there are traditional summer activities - sports, reading, swimming - and we’ve got some great ideas for the hottest new toys for summer in The Toy Guy’s toy reviews section. What you’ll notice this year are a lot of updated classics - from hula hoops that are easier to spin to jump ropes that have built-in sound systems. If you’re a parent or caregiver, following are tips to bear in mind as you approach the summer holidays.

Kids need to decompress, too. Particularly for older kids in more competitive academic environments, the last weeks of school, though exciting, are also filled with pressure. If there has been an exam period or just the pressure of getting through the end-of-year activities, a lot of demands are being made on kids’ time, energy, and attention. Taking some time in the early days of vacation to sleep late, even be “lazy” and enjoy not having the structure or routine of school can be important.
Unstructured time is important . Today’s kids are more rigidly scheduled with organized sports, music or other activities than ever before. While these are rewarding and pleasurable for kids, there are often pressures associated with competition and achievement in these organized activities. Structured activities teach kids valuable lessons in terms of achievement, motivation and discipline, but unstructured time is important too. Particularly for younger kids, time to have open-ended play, indulge the imagination and create fantasy worlds is an important complement to structured activities. Setting up this kind of time is a challenge for parents who also have to work throughout the summer and need to know their children are being taken care of and supervised. One way to ensure having the best of both worlds is to see if there is unstructured time during a structured program. For example, many summer day camps have an hour or so in the afternoon where the activity is left to the discretion of the child. Remember, children don’t always have to be "doing" in order to be creatively engaged.
Balance activities. Be sure to provide a balance of activities for kids during the summer. Sports and active play can be complemented by reading, for example. This is a time to encourage a range of experiences and allow kids to explore their areas of interest.
Enjoy the outdoors. One of the most common things said by caregivers during the summer holidays is-"Outdoors with that." It’s a lesson most active youngsters have to learn-the living room is not a baseball diamond. Funny how that idea persists generation after generation. Summer is a great time for playing outdoors, and summer toys are generally less expensive and designed to be shared. Being outdoors for longer in the day means kids can spend time together.

The good news is that outdoor toys are generally less expensive than the promotional toys featured at the holidays and they’re designed for active play. Moreover, every year, outdoor toys have gotten more and more sophisticated, which means high tech toys offer greater performance. Brands such as Vortex have invested heavily in creating sports toys that allow kids to feel more successful at throwing, batting and playing. While these toys are not regulation sporting equipment, our play with the youngest baseball fans (ages 4-6) showed, not surprisingly, that when kids felt more successful, they played longer and enjoyed themselves more. While all these toys adhere to rigorous safety standards by toy testing labs, it’s important to remember that supervised play is important for children of all ages.

You may feel more pressure. Just because the kids are out of school doesn’t mean it’s vacation time for you. Many parents feel added pressure at this time of year because they have to work and their kids aren’t in school. Planning ahead and sharing caregiving duties with other parents can relieve some of this stress, as can setting up regular times to check in with your children during the day. Create a plan and a routine that works for you and your family so that everyone can get maximum enjoyment and benefit from the summer.

Looking for some ideas to keep kids occupied-that don’t involve watching TV or playing video games? Following are some kid-tested ways to keep kids excited and creatively engaged:

Bubble Up . Parents have reported that some of their most successful afternoons with kids age 3-6 have been playing with bubbles. A gallon of bubble solution poured into flat pans combined with a variety of wands and blowers (even paper tubes) have created an economical and engaging afternoon party. Check out the products from Strombecker and Koosh Bubbles to add even more fun. In addition to this always make sure that you’ve bought bubbles which have been approved as safe by a toy testing lab.
Let’s Put on a Show . Whether with puppets or as actors, kids love bringing stories to life-and creating their own. Invite the neighbors and make a big deal about it. More ambitious kids may want to check the local library for scripts of plays organized by age group.
Volunteer . Particularly for older kids, volunteering with local organizations is a great way to meet new friends, provide service to the community and be helpful. Volunteering also looks great on college applications.
Get Online . We know, kids are sick of learning, but there’s lots of cool stuff to do on the Internet that can inspire all kinds of online and offline activity. Hey, you may even find something you want to spend your life doing. A very cool book that’s just been published is 300 Incredible Things for Kids on the Internet by Ken Leebow. It’s got lots of sites for kids of all ages. (We even finally found out what our IQs are! And, no, we won’t tell.)

Bubbles that have been tested by a toy testing lab