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Playing Safe

Sometimes it's a challenge to choose toys that will not be harmful for our children's eyes.

Children don't have an entirely developed visual system at birth, but it becomes more refined over time. Nothing stimulates a child's visual development more efficiently than toys that involve hand-eye coordination and learning about spatial relationships. Ideal toys that stimulate a baby's vision 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. In the initial three months of life, a baby's color vision hasn't really formed, so toys with bold, black and white patterns can be stimulating for them.

Since kids spend a great deal of time engaged in play with their toys, it is up to us to make sure their toys are safe for their eyes as well as their overall wellbeing. Firstly, to be safe, toys must be age-appropriate. Hand-in-hand with making sure to keep toys age-appropriate is to check that the toy is good for their developmental stage. Even though toy manufacturers specify age and developmental appropriateness on toy packaging, it's still important for you to be responsible, and make sure your son or daughter doesn't play with anything that might be damaging in any way.

Check that your child's toys are made properly and won't start to break when played with, and check any paint for finish used is not lead-based and won't flake, as small particles can easily get into eyes. We all know that kids can be just a bit reckless, but they should always be on the look out for airborne balls and swings or even swinging ropes that can strike the eye. This can cause real injury like a corneal abrasion, or pop a blood vessel in the eye (also called a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage). Even if there's no visible harm, the result of the hit can appear years after the event, as a contributing cause of something as serious as glaucoma.

All soft toys should be machine washable, and, especially when it comes to smaller children, without any very small parts can easily come off, such as buttons, sequins or bows. Steer clear of toys with edges or sharp components for young children, and check that things with long sticks, like 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, avoid toys which shoot, like arrows. Even when they're older than 6, always pay close attention with toys like that. On the other hand, if you have older kids who enjoy chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always make sure they are wearing protective eyewear.

So when you next find yourself shopping for a special occasion, keep a close eye out for the company's warning about the intended age range for the toy you had in mind. Be certain that toys you buy don't pose any risk to your child.