By Lisa Martone
DES MOINES-- We are about a month away from Christmas and before you hit those stores to find toys for the little ones there are a few tips you should take with you.
"The holiday season is an especially good time to remember some safety tips," said Anne Garinger of Safe Kids of Greater Des Moines.
The Iowa chapter of The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) spends months scouring the store shelves for toys that can pose a risk to children. This year their list, unfortunately continues to grow. One of the common violations: lead in toys.
Even toys that are not labeled, may contain high lead counts. A good way to check for this is to see if the toy was made after August 2011. That is when regulations on how much lead can be in a toy got stricter.
Another warning is for small parts.
"Always inspect toys before you buy them and always use your common sense," said Kramer McLuckie of Iowa PIRG. "Use the toilet paper roll test. There is always issues you can find by just thinking it out for a second."
If the toy can fit through an empty toilet paper roll, it's too small for a young child and can become a swallowing hazard.
Next, check the labels to make sure making sure the age is appropriate.
"I would be a little bit insulted when he was only 6 months old and the toy would say for a 12 month old because I was like, 'oh but he can do this!' I had to teach myself that it is not that he could do this ...but that there were small parts that made it not appropriate for his age," said mother Randi Thompson.
Some of the toys that made this year's list are a Dora the Explorer backpack for chemical materials, Dora Guitar for loud sound, play food for small parts and several balloons purchased at the Dollar Store for not being age appropriate. The best way to protect your child is to use common sense and read labels.
"I think it is a lot of education for the parent to get to themselves to really know how to shop safely," said Thompson.
Another big concern this year is magnetic toys. There have been more than 1,000 emergency room visits over the last few years from children swallowing magnetic toys or parts. This can cause serious stomach issues, so be cautious when purchasing those.