Wednesday, December 20, 2023
  Health, Community

By Saira Cabrera

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – DEC. 20, 2023 – December is certainly a month of gift-giving, a time to celebrate the holidays and, for children, a time to enjoy and share new toys.

For anyone giving toys as gifts this month – which is also National Safe Toys and Gifts Month – health experts at UT Health RGV are reminding everyone to choose those toys wisely, with child safety and well-being in mind.

Dr. Cristel Escalona, a UT Health RGV board-certified pediatrician, division chief of Pediatrics and a mom herself, says one of the primary ways to choose a safe toy is to consider the specific child you’re shopping for.

"When buying gifts for children, make sure it's age-appropriate," Escalona said. "To know this, look at the box or the covering of the gift, which usually has information on the age group it's geared for." 

Dr. Cristel Escalona, UT Health RGV board-certified pediatrician, division chief of Pediatrics, and a mom, said gift-givers need to be mindful of the gifts they are giving so as not to cause any harm, and parents/guardians need to ensure the gift is age-appropriate for their child. (UTRGV Photo)

Giving an age-appropriate gift is vital because presents that are too advanced or unsuitable could pose unintended hazards, such as choking, blindness and, unfortunately, even death. 

"Gift-givers need to be cognizant so as not to harm the child later," Escalona said. "And parents and guardians need to ensure the gift is age-appropriate for their child. They should also be present when the gift is given and be aware of any potential hazards before giving it to their child."

In addition, age-appropriate gifts are much more likely to entertain children and allow them to grow developmentally.

For example, infants have a hard time seeing neutral-colored objects and are better able to see toys with high-contrasting colors.

Escalona also recommends buying toys that are made in countries with firm safety regulations in place, and remembering to check for safety hazards like buttons, batteries, magnets and sharp edges that can lead to injury.

"Check all toys before buying them and avoid those with small loose parts," Escalona said. "Toys cannot have harmful or dangerous parts, such as sharp edges or points, and they should be sturdy, so they can’t be pulled apart easily. The toy should withstand impact without breaking." 

She said younger children should not get toys with parts they could choke on, and parents should safeguard all gifts by looking into pieces that could be ingested because young children tend to explore by putting things in their mouths. 

For older children who are into gaming or electronics, UT Health RGV experts advise limiting screen time as much as possible, especially for those still working on learning language and on developing communication skills.


The following guidelines could help you choose safe toys for all ages, this holiday season and well beyond:

  • Purchase gifts meant solely for the child's age group.
  • Show the child how to use the gifts they are receiving.
  • Be watchful of children when they are playing with their new gifts.
  • And ensure there are no recalls or safety concerns on those gifts.

"Toys usually come with a registration link that users can register to receive alerts when something could be hazardous," Escalona said. "This usually comes within the packaging." 

She said a helpful resource is the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) webpage, where the U.S. government routinely updates product safety recalls, including toys.

"The CPSC sends safety alerts and provides guides and other resources that parents, guardians and any gift-giver can use, to know or share consumer product safety information," Escalona said.

University health experts also encourages gift-givers to remember that safety standards in many other countries may differ from those of the United States. Imported toys may have high levels of lead in the paint, for example, and could be life-threatening to children who put those toys in their mouth.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.