Barbie, interactive board games and Tonka trucks are this year's hottest toys for children ages 3 to 9, according to FamilyFun magazine.
While the last-minute hunt for that perfect toy is under way, buyers should be aware that it is important to give children age-appropriate toys.
Checking warning labels on toys is the easiest way to prevent unintentional injury or choking, according to Rene Hopkins, coordinator of SafeKids of East Central Georgia. Parents should periodically check older toys for damage such as sharp edges or loose parts and store toys for older and younger siblings separately.
"But nothing beats good old-fashioned supervision," she advised.
Hopkins also suggests that parents stay conscious of their children's abilities when it comes to toy safety, making sure to buy toys that are within proper age guidelines for their child.
Patrick Clifford, manager of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans, said the hard-to-find toys this year are Fur Real animated cats, Barbie Rapunzel and the Chicken Dance Elmo. Big sellers this season have been Care Bears, the Hot Wheels Octo Blast, the Spiderman Web Shooter and the Little Tykes Vanity for young girls.
According to the Web site kidshealth.org, an estimated 191,000 children in the United States were treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries in 2000. Of that, 17 children died. And though numerous agencies have been charged with working with the toy industry on producing safe toys, parents should still be vigilant when buying toys for their children.
Hopkins reminds parents that young children explore with their eyes, hands and mouth and like to climb, jump, walk, throw and play rough-and-tumble games.
Older children like to use their imagination and are challenged by complex games that teach specific skills and concepts.
Handheld electronic games, board games, sports equipment, including protective gear, and model kits and musical instruments are popular items for teenagers.
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