The toys and games your older children love can be a huge danger for your younger children.

During the Christmas season children will receive a variety of toys - but some of them come with potential safety risks if they are not age appropriate or if the warning labels are ignored. Dr. Julia Roberts, Pediatrician with Hannibal Regional Medical Group, has a few tips to help make this Christmas a safe one.

When choosing toys as gifts, age matters. Small items are not the safest choice for young children. For children under age three, choose toys that are at least 1 inch in diameter and 2 inches long, so they will not lodge in a child’s mouth or throat. “It is also important to watch for pull toys with longer strings as they could be a potential strangulation hazard for babies,” notes Dr. Roberts. “If you are purchasing gifts for an older child be sure to keep in mind younger siblings as well. If you purchase a toy for an older child that has several small parts try to keep it separate from the younger siblings toys.”

This is where I struggled as a parent. My older girls loved Polly Pockets. These are plastic figures that stand about 2 1/2 inches tall. They come with loads of tiny accessories. As much as the twins loved to play with them, my youngest loved to eat them. These days, Legos are the problem, not with my kids, but with my nieces and nephews. Be sure to keep toys that are a choking hazards away from the little tykes.

Children can have serious stomach and intestinal problems – including death – after swallowing button batteries or magnets. “Button batteries or small magnets can be in a variety of items, not just toys,” notes Dr. Roberts. “If children swallow batteries or magnets it could lead to serious medical problems and you should call your healthcare provider immediately.” In addition to toys, button batteries may be in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids, and other small electronics. Small, powerful magnets may be part of building toy sets. Don’t forget to discard any plastic wrapping or other toy packaging once the gifts are opened.

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