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An Eye on Toy Safety

It's crucial for parents to know how to choose toys that are the safest and the most beneficial for kids.

Babies don't have a completely developed visual system at birth, but it becomes more refined over time. Few things stimulate a child's visual development better than play, which encourages hand-eye coordination and a more concrete understanding of spatial relationships. In the initial three months of life, a baby's ability to see color hasn't properly developed, so simple black and white pictures of things like bulls-eyes or checkerboard patterns are particularly conducive to encouraging visual development.

Because kids spend a great deal of time using toys, parents need to make sure their toys are safe for their eyes as well as their total safety. A toy that is not age appropriate is usually unsafe. And up there with making sure to keep toys age-appropriate is to be sure that the toy is good for their level of development. Despite the fact that companies specify targeted age groups on packaging, as a parent, you still need to make the call, and prevent your child from playing with anything that may result in eye injury or vision loss.

Look to see if your child's things are sturdily constructed so they won't break or fall apart with normal use, and check any paint for finish used is not harmful in any way and won't flake, as small particles can easily get into eyes. It's important to let kids play around a lot, but they need to be aware of airborne objects and other things in the playground, like swinging ropes that might hit the eye. If something like that does occur, 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 immediate damage, the result of the hit can show up decades after the event, as something as serious as glaucoma.

Avoid 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 such toys.

For kids below 6 years old, be wary of toys with flying parts, such as arrows. Even if a child is old enough to play with such toys, you still need to closely watch kids playing with those kinds of toys. Whereas, if you have older kids who play with chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they have correct safety eyewear.

When you're next shopping for the holidays, birthdays or other special occasions, look for the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Be certain that there's no harm posed to your child.