Keeping our children safe during the holidays


For a child, there are few moments more exciting than opening presents during the holidays. Of the many joys that come during this time of the year, seeing a child’s face light up as they find the toy they have been begging for is hard to beat.

Toys are meant to entertain, educate and inspire the imagination. And as someone who has four young grandchildren, I know the difficulty of picking the one that will delight.

But as we begin searching for that perfect present, parents and grandparents alike need to be aware of some toys’ hidden hazards. Between product safety recalls and tiny objects that are easy to fit in a small mouth, new findings from the annual Trouble In Toyland report recently released show that hazards remain on store shelves.

Where can parents get guidance?

Every year, I participate with Texas Public Interest Research Group, TexPIRG, to discuss and help publicize its “Trouble in Toyland” report, and this year we were joined by Dr. Kris Rittichier, section chief for Emergency Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.

The new report offers safety guidelines for purchasing toys and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that pose potential safety hazards. TexPIRG’s research focused on toys that contain lead and toxic chemicals, magnets, toys that pose choking hazards, and toys that are dangerously loud. The report lists a sample of the potential hazards. Before purchasing, shoppers should examine all toys carefully.

Rules to remember

When toy shopping, there are a few easy rules to remember when determining toy safety and age appropriateness. Choking hazards remain at the top of the toy hazard list for accidental death for small children.

To avoid choking hazards, remember children 3 years old and younger should not play with toys that can easily fit through the middle of a toilet paper tube. Similarly, balloons and small balls (smaller than 1.75” in diameter) pose a choking risk.

It is important to consider the youngest and most vulnerable member of family when buying gifts. While a doll may be fine for an 8-year-old, small parts such as the accessories that may come with it could be a choking hazard for younger siblings. Toddler-proofing our home once again includes considering the toys that our granddaughters have most enjoyed.

Some toys have failed safety standards and cannot be sold in stores but may still be available without original packaging at flea markets or over the internet. To ensure that a toy meets safety standards, refer to and to read PIRG’s full report, visit

One of my own most memorable Christmas mornings included getting a new bicycle. For others, it may have been new skates or skateboards.

In Christmas purchases for older children, the best way to avoid serious injuries and big medical bills is to buy the safety equipment such as helmets or pads that are recommended and encourage their use. The report has other useful resources.  But as for trying to successfully build the bike late on Christmas Eve, well, that is a challenge that parents must navigate themselves.
Parents have the most important role
While my work in Washington remains important to ensure effective law enforcement by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, I know that there is no substitute for a parent or guardian’s care. Keeping a watchful eye on children, especially the youngest, can ensure healthy and happy holiday celebrations. From my family to yours, I wish you a joyous holiday season.