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Kids and Eye Safety

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

Infants don't have a properly developed visual system at birth, but it becomes more refined over time. Nothing stimulates a child's visual development better than playing, which involves hand-eye coordination and learning about spatial relationships. Good toys to encourage an infant's visual development in his or her first year include toys with basic shapes or colors, and activity gyms with detachable and changeable objects, balls, books and puppets. Between the ages of 0-3 months, a baby's color vision hasn't properly developed, so simple black and white pictures of things like shapes and simple patterns are particularly helpful for encouraging visual development.

Because children spend so much time engaged in play with toys, it is important 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 unsafe. Don't forget to check that toys are developmentally appropriate, too. Although companies print age and developmental appropriateness on packaging, you still need to make the call, and make sure your son or daughter avoids playing with something that could be damaging in any way.

Check that your child's things are made properly so they won't fall apart with normal use, and check any paint for finish used is not lead-based and won't flake, as small particles can easily get into eyes. Everyone knows children can be a little reckless, but they need to learn to be aware of objects and other things in the playground, like swinging ropes that might hit the eye. If the eye gets hit by something, it can easily cause a corneal abrasion, or a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage, which is a popped blood vessel. Even if there's no visible injury, the impact can manifest decades after the event, in the form of something as serious as glaucoma.

Any plush toys are best if machine washable, and, for younger children, without any very small pieces can easily come off, like buttons or ribbons. Steer clear of toys that have points or edges or sharp components for little ones, and check that things with long sticks, like pony sticks or toy brooms have rounded handles. Closely watch toddlers when they play with such toys.

If your child is under 6 years old, stay clear of toys which shoot, 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 older kids who have chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always make sure they wear correct safety eyewear.

So the next time you're thinking about gifts, look for the company's instructions about the intended age group for the toy you had in mind. Ensure that there's no harm posed to your child.