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Focusing on Kids’ Eye Safety

Sometimes it's a challenge to choose toys that are safe for our kids' eyes.

Children don't have an entirely developed visual system at birth, but it becomes more refined over time. Few things stimulate a child's visual development more efficiently than play, which involves hand-eye coordination and learning about spatial relationships. The best toys for stimulating a baby's vision in his or her first year include mobiles with geometric patterns or colors, and activity gyms that have interactive or removable objects, puppets and books. Until they're 3 months old, babies can't completely see color, so toys with strong, black and white pictures can be stimulating for them.

Since kids spend a large amount of their day engaged in play with toys, it is up to us to check that their toys are safe for their eyes as well as their overall wellbeing. A toy that is not age appropriate is often not a great choice. Hand-in-hand with age appropriateness is to make sure that toys are developmentally appropriate, too. Although toy companies mention targeted age groups on toy packaging, it's still important for you to be responsible, and not allow your son or daughter to play with anything that may lead to eye injury or vision loss.

Check that your child's toys are made well and don't break or fall apart when they're used, and see to it that any paints or finishes are not lead-based and won't flake, as small particles can easily get into eyes. We all know that children can be just a bit reckless, but they need to learn to be on the look out for airborne balls and swings or even swinging ropes that can strike the eye. This can lead to immediate injury such as a corneal abrasion, or a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage, which is a popped blood vessel. Even if there's no visible harm, the impact can manifest years later, in the form of glaucoma or a premature cataract.

Don't buy toys that have points or edges or sharp components for young children, and check that long-handled toys such as pony sticks or toy brooms have rounded handles. Always pay attention when they play with those kinds of toys.

If your child is under 6 years old, be wary of toys projectiles, like dart guns. Always pay close attention with those kinds of toys. On the other hand, when it comes to teens who enjoy chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they have safety goggles.

So when you next find yourself shopping for a special occasion, look for the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Be certain that toys you buy don't pose any risk to your child - even if your child really wants it.