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An Eye on Toy Safety

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Understandably, parents worry about the eye safety of their kids. But it can be difficult to know which toys are the safest and most educational.

Children don't have a properly developed visual system at birth, but it becomes more refined over time. Few things stimulate a child's visual development better than playing, which involves hand-eye coordination and learning about spatial relationships. Until they're 3 months old, babies can't fully see color, so simple black and white shapes and patterns are really great for their age group.

Children spend a lot of time with their toys, so it's good for parents to know if those toys are safe or not. Firstly, to be safe, a toy should be age-appropriate. And up there with making sure to keep toys age-appropriate is to check that the toy is suited to their developmental stage. Although toy companies print targeted age groups on the box, you still need to be discerning, and prevent your child from playing with toys that may result in eye injury or vision loss.

Toys must be well-made, without details that will break off. And if they're painted, make sure it's not with a product toxic or harmful. Kids like to roughhouse, but they should always keep an eye out for flying objects and other things in the playground, like swinging ropes that may hit and cause harm to eyes. If something like that does happen, it can result in a corneal abrasion, or pop a blood vessel in the eye (also called a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage). And even when there appears to be no resulting injury, the result of the hit can manifest decades later, as something as serious as glaucoma.

Steer clear of toys with edges or sharp components for a little kid, and be sure that long-handled toys such as pony sticks or toy brooms have rounded handles. Always pay attention when they play with such toys.

For kids younger than 6, stay clear of toys projectiles, such as dart guns. Even when they're older than 6, always pay close attention with those kinds of toys. Whereas, when it comes to teens who have chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they wear correct safety eyewear.

So the next time you're shopping for a holiday or birthday, keep in mind the toy makers' advice about the intended age group for the toy you had in mind. Make sure that there's no danger posed to your child's eyes – even if they look fun to play with.