Every year it's the same thing. Zillions of toys crowd store shelves in the hopes of grabbing my attention and finding their way home to my kids. I don't know if it's the eggnog or the holiday music blasting through the store, but every year, I fall into the trap of believing that if a toy is made for a child, it will be manufactured with materials that are safe for a child.


But then the caroling fades, the eggnog wears off, and I remember that as much as I wish that were true, it's simply not always the case.


So how can we all make sure that the toys we purchase this year for the holidays won't show up on January's toy recall list? Here are a few tips for finding safer toys for your kids this holiday season:


Do look for toys made with natural materials, such as unpainted wood, and natural fabrics such as wool and cotton.


Do look for products that are painted with nontoxic paints or dyes.


Do take a quick look at websites like Healthystuff.org and Goodguide.com to find out which toys to avoid. You can also sign up to get e-mail alerts of recent toy recalls at the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


Don't buy costume jewelry for children. It might contains either lead or an equally toxic cousin, cadmium.


Don't purchase toys made with vinyl products, or PVC (for polyvinyl chloride). According to safety advocates like HealthyStuff.org, PVC is several times more likely to contain hazardous additives compared with other plastics. Items made with synthetic leather, such as kids' book bags and baseball gloves, and other rubbery and flexible items like certain balls and bracelets may contain vinyl. Some (but not all) vinyl products are labeled with a recycling triangle that includes a "3" with a "V" underneath the symbol.


Don't buy brightly colored plastics that could contain lead, cadmium or toxic pigments.


Don't buy products bearing the California Proposition 65 label with wording similar to this: "Warning: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm."


Don't purchase toys with small magnets that can be swallowed.


Happy Holidays!


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