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Safety is the Name of the Game When it Comes to Toys

Posted: Updated: Sep 9, 2011 10:57 PM EDT

Toys and games are meant to brighten up a child's day. But ones that are poorly made pose a dangerous threat. In just the two years before the federal government put in place tougher product safety standards in 2008, 45 million toys were recalled.

In every size, shape, color and noise making ability, toys fill the shelves at Shenanigans in the Barracks Road Shopping Center. "We organize the store by age group, and we're very careful about safety when it comes to that age group," explained Kai Rady, the owner of Shenanigans.

Rady has made a life's work out of matching toys with tots.

"When you match a toy to a child's development level, they have a lot more fun with it," she said.

But safety comes first before the fun. Federal laws ban small parts in toys targeting kids under 3 years old. And warning labels are the law for toys and games with small parts that pose a choking hazard to children ages 3 to 6.

"Pay attention to the labels for sure," advised Rady. "I think the labeling has gotten much better.It's cautious."

Rady and her team work with parents to pick out age-appropriate toys and make sure they're aware of potential dangers. "We will inform the parent that that has not been tested for babies," she said.

But ultimately, the final decision of what toy to buy is at the discretion of mom and dad.

"Different children are different sizes and have different developmental skills at different ages, so you can't make one rule," Rady added.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission sets the rules for toy safety. It also manages recalls of toys that fail to meet standards. Since 1975, 875 recalls were issued, pulling millions of toys off the shelves for hazards including choking, making excessive noise, and containing toxic chemicals in the paints and plastics.

"The main thing starts with the parent, looking at the toy, seeing if it is well made, if there aren't any small parts that can be choking hazards, and doing a thorough inspection before you let your child have it," said Charlottesville attorney Bryan Slaughter.

He says parents should pay particular attention to toys imported from overseas manufacturers.

"Legally, it is hard to get them to follow the standards," stated Slaughter.

If you're buying a toy for someone else's child, Rady recommends you ask questions about the child's development level. For example, if a kid can write his or her name, they're probably ready for toys that require more motor skills.