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Playing Safe: Kids and Eye Safety

It’s important to know what sorts of toys are the safest and the most beneficial for kids.

Children are born with a partially developed visual system which, through stimulation, becomes more refined throughout their growing years. There aren’t many things that encourage a child’s visual development better than toys that encourage hand-eye coordination and a clearer understanding of spaces and distances between objects. Until they’re 3 months old, babies can’t fully differentiate between colors, so simple black and white pictures of things like bulls-eyes or checkerboard patterns are particularly helpful for stimulating visual development.

Because children spend so much time engaged in play with toys, moms and dads really need to be sure that their toys are safe for their eyes as well as their overall safety. A toy that is not age appropriate is generally not a great choice. And it is just as important to be sure that toys are developmentally appropriate, too. Although companies indicate age and developmental appropriateness on toy packaging, it’s still important for you to make the call, and prevent your child from playing with anything that may result in eye injury or vision loss.

Make sure your child’s toys are sturdily constructed and won’t start to break when they’re used, and see to it any coating (like paint) is non-toxic and won’t flake, as small particles can easily get into eyes. Kids like to horse around at times, but they need to learn to 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). Even if there’s no apparent harm, the result of the hit can manifest years later, in the form of glaucoma or a premature cataract.

All soft toys are best if machine washable, and, for younger children, without any tiny pieces that can be pulled off, such as buttons or ribbons. Steer clear of toys that have points or edges or sharp components 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 such toys.

For children younger than 6 years old, be wary of toys projectiles, such as arrows. Even when they’re older than 6, always pay attention with those kinds of toys. On the other hand, for teens who enjoy chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they have correct safety eyewear.

So the next time you’re considering gifts, keep in mind the manufacturers’ instructions about the intended age range for the toy you had in mind. Ensure that toys you buy won’t pose any risk to your child’s eyes.

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