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Holiday Tips

Fresh Christmas Trees Prevent Fires

As the holiday approaches, Gardens Home Management Services reminds families to take a few simple steps, recommended by the U.S.Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPSC), to ensure a safe and joyous holiday. A fresh Christmas tree will not only stay greener longer but will also be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. Five simple ways to check for freshness: (1) A fresh tree is green; (2) Fresh needles are hard to pull from branches; (3) Fresh needles do not break when they are bent between your fingers; (4) The trunk of a fresh tree is sticky with resin; and (5) When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles signals the tree is too dry. In addition, whether your tree is real or artificial, always remember to place your tree away from heat sources such as fireplaces and radiators.

Toy Safety Buying Tips

When buying children toys during the holiday season there are many things that you should be aware of before giving that perfect gift. The first concern should be the child's age and whether the gift is "age appropriate." The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPSC) requires toy manufacturers meet stringent safety standards and label certain toys that could be a hazard for younger children. Look for labels that give age recommendations and use that information as a guide. Labels on toys that state "not recommended for children under three ... contains small parts," are labeled that way because they may pose a choking hazard to children under three. Toys should be developmentally appropriate to suit the skills, abilities and interests of the child. Even though a label may say it is safe for smaller children, do not always trust the package age requirement. Unfortunately, they are not always correct.

There are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind: Children under three are usually the most vulnerable to dangerous toys. The biggest hazard usually is from choking. This is because children of this age group tend to put everything in their mouths. Avoid buying toys for children in this age group which may have small parts that pose a choking danger. Un-inflated or broken balloons are never good for children of this age group. Other toys to avoid include: marbles, balls, and games with balls that have a diameter of 1.75 inches or less. These products also pose a choking hazard to young children. It is also important to remember that children under three will pull, prod and twist toys. Look for toys that are well-made with tightly secured eyes, noses and other parts. Obviously, toys with sharp edges and points are also not good for this age group, this includes toys constructed with thin, brittle plastic that might easily break into small pieces or leave jagged edges. If you are concerned about a child eating or swallowing certain crayons or paint sets, look for the designation "ASTM D-4236." This means the product has been reviewed by a toxicologist and, if necessary, labeled with cautionary information.

For children of all ages you should periodically check their old toys for breakage and potential hazards. Damaged or dangerous toys should be repaired or thrown away. If buying a toy gun, be sure the barrel, or the entire gun, is brightly colored so that it's not mistaken for a real gun. If you are buying a child of any age a bicycle for the holiday, buy a helmet too, and make sure the child wears it.

Last year, an estimated 140,700 children were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms after toy-related incidents and 13 children died. Be aware of what you purchase for your children and others and everyone will have a happy and joyful holiday season.