What sorts of things do you associate with a healthy holiday? We’re willing to bet that things like healthier recipes, exercise and relaxation techniques came to mind when we asked that question. Chances are, however, that the phrase “children’s toys” was not one of the first things you thought of.

Unfortunately, toys and gifts can indeed have a negative impact on a child’s health. In 2013 alone there were an estimated 256,700 toy-related injuries for all ages treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments. So whether you’re shopping for your own children, or for a relative or friend’s children, it’s important to make sure that any gifts you purchase this season aren’t potentially harmful ones. Fortunately, there are plenty of safe and fun toys you can purchase for children this year. Here’s three ways you can provide fun, low-risk gifts this month:

  • Carefully consider the age of the child you’re buying a toy for. A child’s age doesn’t just affect which “all the rage” toy they want this year.Toy guidelines will differ from age group to age group. They have to: infants aren’t at the same development points as toddlers, and toddlers aren’t at the same development points as pre-schoolers. So be sure to keep these guidelines in mind as you shop.

  • Know the dangers associated with certain toys. Whatever the age of the child you’re shopping for, you can instantly remove some toys from your shopping list if they don’t meet certain safety criteria. For example, toys with small and removable parts are off-limits for young children, who could accidentally swallow and choke on these parts while playing. Painted toys without a “lead free” disclaimer should never be purchased, and any fabric toys you buy should always include a “flame resistant” or “flame retardant” label, just to be safe. It’s also best to avoid noisy toys and non-machine washable stuffed toys, as these can contribute to hearing loss and germ-related health problems, respectively.

  • Use the Internet to guide you through this year’s shopping options. Still not 100% sure which gift will be both enjoyable and a smart choice health-wise? Thanks to the power of the Internet, no one has to go into a store this year with no ideas on what to get their children, nieces, nephews, or other young acquaintances for the holidays. For example, each year websites such as BusinessInsider.com publish helpful lists on the worst toys you could buy for children. Healthtradition.com offers a general list toy guidelines, while Fish-price.com has guidelines for younger children. And these are just three of the resources available for free online.

While things such as winter weather or holiday lights may seem like more important seasonal health and safety issues, it’s just as important to keep toy safety in mind during your holiday shopping sprees. This year we encourage you to keep the latest safety guidelines and reports in mind to help ensure that the children in your life don’t need an emergency visit to a doctor some time down the line. Remember, a healthy and safe holiday is the best gift you can give!

Image courtesy of commons.wikipedia.org