Mom watching daughter play with colorful toys (photo by iStock)
Ohio Life | Live Well Ohio

Live Well Ohio: Nov./Dec. 2022

Follow these pointers when buying toys for the little ones in your life this season, and learn how the power of gratitude can improve your outlook. 

Play it Safe
Buy toys that ensure kids can learn, grow and have fun without hazards. 

Children are dreaming up their holiday wish lists, and the store aisles are stocked with tempting toys for kids of all ages. But even when toys pass U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission standards, other factors should be considered. 

Small magnets and batteries can be particularly dangerous to children, according to Dr. Sampurna Shakya, a pediatrician at Ashtabula County Medical Center.

“Lithium batteries, when swallowed, the electricity gets in contact with your stomach and can cause irreversible harm or a rupture of the intestine,” he says. 

Buying safe toys also isn’t just about the age range printed on the box. 

“Choose toys based on their developmental stage,” Shakya advises. 

Here are other recommendations for selecting toys that are safe for the kids this holiday season.

Clean Up. For babies especially, “everything goes into their mouths,” Shakya says. Whether a toy is a hand-me-down or new, wash it. Be careful of choking hazards, too. If a toy can fit inside an empty toilet paper tube, it’s too small for babies and toddlers. 

Play Along. For toddlers and preschoolers, select toys you can enjoy together. “They are learning motor and language skills, so toys like balls, blocks, trains, cars, dolls ... puzzles and games build a rapport between you and your child,” Shakya says. 

Create Safe Toy Spaces. For siblings of different ages and stages, keep toys too small for the younger ones out of reach and create a dedicated space for play. “Be sure they are replaced back into their storage spaces to avoid the risk of a toddler or baby ingesting them,” Shakya says.


Women laughing and having coffee (photo by iStock)

Thank Goodness
Life is not easy. Taking time to note the positives and being grateful for them goes a long way.  

Challenges of life can be a struggle and worries about what each day will bring can make it even worse. That is why it is important to make sure that the struggles we encounter don’t eclipse the good that is happening around us as well. 

“If all we ever focus on is the stress, it is more difficult to find meaning and purpose in our lives,” says Arianna Galligher, a licensed independent social worker and associate director of STAR Trauma Recovery Center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She is also director of the center’s Gabbe Health & Well-Being Program. 

“Practicing gratitude does not mean you only have to focus on the positive,” she adds, calling this “toxic positivity.” But striking a balance is healthy and can help you recenter, identify your values and approach problems with confidence. Gratitude is powerful. 

“Exploring what you are grateful for does not cancel out the things that are stressful,” Galligher adds. “We need to allow space for the bad and good to be present and real.”

Robert Emmons of University of California, Davis and Michael McCullough of University of Miami conducted a study that asked a group of participants to write a few sentences about things they were grateful for throughout the week for 10 weeks. This group was more optimistic, exercised more and had fewer doctor visits than a separate group asked to document their daily irritations. 

“Setting aside time to really focus on the good stuff can help you find your footing through times of stress,” Galligher says. “The first step is to be intentional when something good happens, and to really notice it and acknowledge it.”

Here are some strategies for focusing on the positive that will do your mind and body good. 

Man listening to mobile phone with headphones and laying in leaves (photo by iStock)

Embrace the Small Moments

You don’t need a major milestone to feel grateful. A sunny day, the smell of coffee brewing or a text from a dear friend can be reasons to be grateful. It’s the little stuff that’s big. “It can just be the everyday moments,” Galligher says.

Make an Appointment: Like any habit, schedule the time to take a gratitude break and be consistent. “Centering the practice around a structured and engaging activity can also be helpful — like a moving meditation or journaling, writing down thoughts,” Galligher says. Mobile phone apps are available that offer guided meditations.

Create a Visual Reminder: “I have a bulletin board in my office where I post thank-you notes or little visual representations of things that bring me joy and help me remember the good things,” Galligher says.

Include the Kids: Carving out time with family or friends to share what you are grateful for develops a network of support. “When we share with others the things we are grateful for, it crystalizes that reality and helps us find clarity about what brings meaning and value to our lives,” Galligher says.