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Playing Safe: Kids and Eye Safety

Sometimes it's hard to choose toys that are not harmful for our children's eyes.

Babies are born with an underdeveloped visual system which, through stimulation, becomes more refined throughout their growing years. Few things stimulate a child's visual development better than toys that involve hand-eye coordination and learning about spatial relationships. Ideal toys for stimulating an infant's vision in his or her first year include toys with basic shapes or colors, and activities with detachable and changeable objects, balls, books and puppets. In the initial three months of life, a baby's color vision hasn't properly formed, so toys with strong, black and white patterns can be stimulating for them.

Kids spend a sizable amount of time with their toys, so it's crucial to know if those toys are safe and beneficial or not. Firstly, to be safe, toys must be age-appropriate. It is equally important to make sure that toys are developmentally appropriate, too. Although toy manufacturers mention targeted age groups on toy packaging, you still need to make the call, and make sure your son or daughter avoids playing with something that could be dangerous for them.

Make sure your child's toys are made properly so they won't break or fall apart with regular use, and double-check any coating (like paint) is non-toxic and won't flake, as small particles can easily get into eyes. We all know that kids can sometimes be just a bit reckless, but they need to be on the look out for flying balls and other things in the playground, like swinging ropes that might hit the eye. If the eye does get hit, it can easily lead to a corneal abrasion, or pop a blood vessel in the eye (also called a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage). Other times, the impact can show up years later, as a contributing cause of something as serious as glaucoma.

Steer clear of toys that have points or edges or any sharp parts for young children, and if your kids have toys with long handles, like pony sticks, make sure the ends aren't sharp. Closely supervise toddlers when they play with those kinds of toys.

For kids below 6, be wary of toys which shoot, like arrows. Even when they're older than 6, always supervise children playing with those kinds of toys. Whereas, for teens who have chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always make sure they are wearing safety goggles.

So the next time you're considering gifts, pay attention to the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Make sure that there's no danger posed to your child - even if it looks like lots of fun.