Think About Safety While Shopping For Toys, Holiday Decorations

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The holiday shopping season is here, and many people are purchasing holiday presents and decorations. With that in mind, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services urges shoppers to take a few minutes during this busy time to think about safety.

"Health and Family Services wants all Kentuckians to enjoy a wonderful and healthy holiday season. The best way to do that is to equip yourself with a few simple safety tips to remember before you go shopping, purchase a toy or decorate a Christmas tree," said William D. Hacker, M.D., commissioner of the Department for Public Health (DPH). "No one should ever suffer an injury – or worse consequence – under circumstances that could have been easily prevented."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the holidays are safer and happier if people take time to follow some simple safety guidelines about toys, trees, lights and decorations. Here's a closer look at some general safety guidelines for the holidays:

Toy Safety

Follow recommended age ranges on toy packages. Toys that are too advanced could be a safety hazard for younger children.

Read instructions carefully before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy received as a gift. If the toy is appropriate for your child, show him or her how to use it properly.

Be careful with holiday gift-wrapping, like bags, paper, ribbons and bows. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child.

Be aware that children age 3 and younger can choke on small parts contained in toys or games and balls with a diameter of 1.75 inch or less (such as a ping pong or golf ball).

Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children. Children younger than age 8 can choke or suffocate on deflated or broken balloons. Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length, a strangulation hazard for babies.

Older siblings need to make sure to keep games and toys with small parts away from younger brothers and sisters.


Toys also should be put away safely to prevent trips or falls. Many injuries occur when toys are left out.

In 2007, more than 230,000 toy-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms. Nationally, there were 18 recorded toy-related fatalities in 2007, up from 16 in 2004.

Seven of these fatalities occurred on wheeled toys. Vehicles such as scooters, bicycles, all terrain vehicles (ATVs), skateboards, big wheels and tricycles are often popular holiday gifts. In 2004, there were two scooter-related deaths, one riding toy fatality and four tricycle fatalities.

Overall, wheeled toys, which remain a popular gift choice, account for more injuries than any other toy.

If considering the purchase of an ATV, remember to inquire about age and recommended engine sizes measured in cubic centimeters. For example, children younger than 6 should never ride an ATV; ages 6-12 should only ride those with engine sizes smaller than 70cc; ages 12-16 can use engines between 70-90cc; and those older than 16 can ride ATVs with engine sizes larger than 90cc.

Shoppers also need to be careful when purchasing Christmas decorations. Though holiday decor is a part of the celebration, certain items can be dangerous and need to be avoided. Below are a few guidelines endorsed by the Kentucky Department for Public Health to prevent injury.


Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.

Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.

Take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children and pets to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food.

Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

"We have a valuable partnership with the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC), and the Fire Marshal's Office, where together we help educate, inform and respond to many consumer inquires and monitoring of products," said Guy Delius, director of the Division of Public Health Protection and Safety in DPH. "We join forces this time of the year to make sure our citizens are informed of product defects, recalls or advisories."