Better Business Bureau encourages parents to choose safe, suitable toys as gifts

Selecting the right toy can be a challenge, and although they are intended for fun, they can pose hazards if not handled by an age-appropriate user.

The Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin wants families to be safe when shopping for toys this holiday season.

A report released by the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated there were 265,000 toy-related injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2012, according to a Better Business Bureau news release. Of those injured, about 72 percent were children younger than 15.

If your shopping list includes the names of a few good boys or girls, the Better Business Bureau offers this advice to ensure the toys you give are safe:

Find out which toys have been recalled. Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at or call 800-638-2772. If the toy or product has been recalled, check the guidelines for what to do next.

Make sure the toy is age-appropriate. Toy safety isn't only about avoiding recalled products. Read and follow the age recommendation listed on the package.

Read labels. Look for warnings such as, "Not recommended for children under 3," and for other safety labels indicating whether the item is flame retardant or flame resistant on fabric products.

Be cautious of older toys or hand-me-downs. Safety recalls don't expire. So while buying a gently used toy might be cost-effective, it's important to check product recalls regularly.

Be careful when shopping online. Internet toy vendors may not be as vigilant as brick-and-mortar stores about removing recalled products. Double-check that the toy you are purchasing hasn't been flagged as a recall.

It's also important to be aware of safety hazards once the toys have been opened. The Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests you immediately discard plastic wrapping or other toy packaging before it becomes dangerous and keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings.

Also, supervise all battery charging. Chargers and adapters can pose burn hazards to young children. Pay attention to instructions and warnings on battery chargers. Some chargers lack any mechanism to prevent overcharging.