Exercise holiday caution

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The holidays are the time of year to use extreme safety precautions in our homes as well as when shopping for children, according to a University of Tennessee child development specialist.

Matt Devereaux, an associate professor with UT Extension's Family and Consumer Sciences Department, said, "Christmas tree lights appear to be a simple pleasure of the season; however those little bulbs can be a danger to a child. It is the parents' responsibility to protect their children by keeping holiday lights, lamps that can tip over, uncovered electrical outlets, matches and candles out of reach."

Babies are curious about everything, and they explore by climbing, touching and pulling things they are not tall enough to see. Other hazards in the home may be breakable glass, sewing items, plastic bags, marbles and other tiny toys, plastic toys that break with sharp edges and scissors used when gift-wrapping.

Parents should be careful of the new toys that come into their homes, Devereaux says. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges gift-givers to keep child safety in mind when choosing toys. "Children are hurt by toys each year, but by always reading the labels and being safety conscious, parents and care givers can help prevent toy-related injuries," Devereaux said.

The following tips will help when choosing appropriate toys this holiday season:

-Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards to younger infants.

-For infants, toddlers, and all children that still put objects in their mouths, think BIG! Avoid toys with small parts which could pose a fatal choking hazard.

-Be a label reader. Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide.

-Read labels on crayons, paints, clay and other materials to be sure they are not poisonous if put in the mouth.

-Discard plastic wrappings on toys immediately. They can cause suffocation.

-Avoid toys with electrical parts unless children are school-aged and know how to handle them safely.

-Choose toys that are easy to wash or clean. Wash infant and toddler toys daily.

-Choose fabric toys labeled "flame-retardant" or "nonflammable"

-Check stuffed toys to be sure eyes and other parts are stitched on securely.

-Don't let children play with shooting toys, such as BB guns, darts, caps or anything that explodes.

-Store toys and learning materials on low shelves where children can reach them. Place heavy toys near the floor.

For more information about child development issues, visit the UT Extension Family and Consumer Sciences web site: http://fcs.tennessee.edu/humandev/.

UT Extension operates in each of Tennessee's 95 counties as the off-campus division of the UT Institute of Agriculture. An educational outreach organization, funded by federal, state and local governments, UT Extension, in cooperation with Tennessee State University, brings research-based information about agriculture, family and consumer sciences, and youth and community development to the people of Tennessee where they live and work.

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