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Troubleshooting New Toys

You wouldn't let your child eat Halloween candy before you inspect it, right? Be as careful with presents, says Marianne Szymanski, coauthor of Toy Tips: A Parent's Essential Guide to Smart Toy Choices. Some hazards:

Toys with lead
With more than 4 million toys recalled for lead this past year (and more likely to come), it's frustrating to hear that there's not much you can do about it. Manufacturers are stepping up testing, but until more safeguards are put into place, the best advice is to keep on top of recalls. (Check out our Toy Recall Roundup) Concerned about toys in your home? Skip the inexpensive lead testing kits  -- experts now say they're not reliable. Instead, if you think your child's been exposed to lead, ask your pediatrician to do a blood test to check your child's lead levels.

Stuffed animals
That new teddy bear sure is cute, but it doesn't belong in the crib with an unsupervised baby under a year  -- she can suffocate underneath or against it. For kids under 4, be watchful of parts that can come loose and become choking hazards, like plastic eyes and fuzzy noses.

Small parts
Beware of Barbie's shoes, Mr. Potato Head's nose, and other loose parts until kids break the habit of mouthing everything in sight (between 3 and 4 years). Batteries can cause choking, throat burns, and worse if swallowed; small, powerful magnets are a choking hazard and can cause major intestinal damage.

Pull toys
If that doggie on a rope has a string more than 12 inches long, it's a strangulation risk for babies and toddlers.

Books
Even some padded board books have sharp edges that can cut a baby's tongue or poke her eye, so stay with her when she's "reading" them.

Mobiles
Hanging toys and decorations are fine until babies can sit up and grab them (around 8 months), at which point they become a choking hazard and strangulation risk. Move them out of reach of your child's crib then.

Heirlooms
Your mom's toy tea set makes a precious gift, but lax regulations back in the day mean it may have sharp edges or lead paint. Inspect it for dangers, and keep it away from kids who still put stuff in their mouths.

Skateboards, scooters, and wheeled sneakers
Read the instructions together and supervise your child as she practices in a safe area (like an empty parking lot). Encourage her to wear protective gear, and be sure she rides only on flat, smooth surfaces.

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