ONE of the most enjoyable aspects of the Christmas season is seeing the delight on children's faces when they receive a special gift.

Yet tens of thousands of accidents per year, directly involving toys result in either life changing injuries, or even death.

While many of these will be related to the inappropriate use of a perfectly safe item, a recent survey by the British Toy and Hobby Association (BTHA) showed that a staggering percentage of toys purchased over the internet did not meet their basic safety requirements. Disappointingly online sellers are not responsible for the products of third parties whose companies are often based outside the EU, making it very difficult to police any retailer located elsewhere.

However, by following a few simple tips, you can ensure that the toys you buy are safe, and play time is a happy and fun filled occasion, memorable for all the right reasons.

Toys sold in the UK and Northern Ireland must comply with a set of agreed standards.

If so, the packaging will display a CE symbol or the UKCA mark. Toy makers may also be a member of the BTHA and their product will display the “Lion Mark”, demonstrating it has met the high safety requirements of this trade body.

Always buy age-appropriate toys. Broadly speaking manufacturers provide a rough guide as to the age group an item will most appeal to. Yet if a product states “unsuitable for children below the age of”, it is likely that there are small items that may be a choking hazard or moving parts that may trap little fingers.

Most choking accidents involve children in the 0-4 age group. Never allow a child to put a toy in their mouth that can fit completely into the mouth as it will rapidly block their airway.

Many toys require batteries for some of their features. Small coin batteries can easily become stuck in ears and nostrils, or worse ingested where they may either burn through the lining of the gullet or get stuck in the intestines. As a supervising parent or adult, always change the batteries yourself, making sure the battery compartment is properly secured.

Replace a full set each time to avoid the risk of short circuit or fire and correctly dispose of used batteries immediately.

Children should always be supervised on moving items such as rocking horses, or anything with wheels such as bicycles and skateboards.

For the latter two, a helmet and knee/elbow pads are not optional extras and should be purchased as part of the package.

Several thousand eye injuries every year result from toys that fire projectiles such as bows and arrows. I would caution against anyone buying a ball bearing gun for a child. It is not a toy.

Even educational items such as chemistry sets are not without risk. It is recommended that these are not bought for children under 12, and that appropriate eye and skin protection is always worn when using them.

Obviously, toys often undergo hard use, so regularly check that they are still fully operational and that there are no broken parts or sharp edges.

If a toy is broken, either discard it or make sure that it is repaired to a high standard. It is unfair to give damaged or faulty toys to charity.

Neither those selling or purchasing the item will be aware of any defect, which could result in a child losing their sight, fingers or even life.

Though it may be nostalgic to hand down your own toys to your children and indeed certain items go through multiple generations, think whether a product which is several years or even decades old is still safe.

A teddy with eyes hanging loosely on, stuffing coming out and a long ribbon is better left on the shelf. Poorly secured eyes and buttons, as well as filling that is not fixed inside a soft toy are easily ingested by children, especially young ones. A long ribbon bow or string can become wrapped round a childs neck with disastrous consequences. Remember, younger children will explore and play with toys in ways that you might not expect.

Try to purchase toys directly from the manufacturer, or a reputable distributor, where you can see what you are buying.

If the same item is available for much less on the internet, be aware that it could be a counterfeit product, and hence not safe. A list of recalled toys is at

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