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An Eye on Toy Safety

boys with thumbs upChoosing the right toys for eye safety is a concern for every parent. Children are born with an underdeveloped visual system which, through stimulation, develops throughout their growing years. Nothing stimulates a child's vision more easily than toys which help children develop hand-eye coordination, and understand spatial relationships. In the first three months of life, a baby's colour vision is poorly developed, so high contrast black and white images with images such as bulls-eye or checkerboard patterns are very helpful in stimulating visual development.

Since children spend a great deal of time playing with their toys, it is vital to make sure their toys are safe for their eyes as well as their overall safety. A toy that is not age appropriate is usually not safe. Hand-in-hand with age appropriateness is making sure the toy is developmentally appropriate.  Although toy manufacturers indicate age and developmental appropriateness on toy packaging, it is up to you to be smart and not allow your child to play with toys that could cause eye injury and even vision loss.

Blocks are safe for almost all ages, but make sure the corners and edges are blunted, to reduce the risk of eye injury. Toy size is also important. If you have toddlers, a toy that is large enough not to fit into a child's mouth but which can be manipulated into a smaller size is also not recommended. Put the toy away until your child is older. Make sure your child's toys are sturdily constructed so they won't break or fall apart with reasonable play and double-check that any paints or finishes are non-toxic and not likely to peel or flake off.    Kids like to horse around, and need to be aware of balls or even swinging ropes that can strike the eye.  Sometimes this causes immediate injury such as corneal abrasion or pop a blood vessel on the eye (sub-conjunctival hemorrhage).  Other times the impact will not show until decades later as glaucoma or premature cataract.

Avoid toys with rough edges or sharp components and check that long-handled toys such as a pony stick, broom or vacuum have rounded handles. Closely supervise toddlers with such toys.

If your child is under 6, avoid toys that shoot objects in the air such as slingshots, dart guns or arrows and closely supervise any child playing with these toys. If your older child plays with a chemistry set or woodworking tools, provide him or her with safety goggles.

So when shopping for the holidays, birthdays or other special occasions pay special attention to the age or developmental recommendations on toys and ensure that they don’t pose any harm your child's eyes – even if they look fun to play with.