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Safety at Play

It can be a challenge to choose toys that are safe for our children's eyes.

Infants are born with an only partially developed visual system. There aren't many things that stimulate a child's visual development more efficiently than play, which involves hand-eye coordination and a clearer understanding of spaces and distances between objects. Ideal toys for stimulating an infant's sight in his or her first year include toys with basic shapes or colors, and activities that have interactive or removable objects, puppets and books. Between the ages of 0-3 months, babies can't fully see color, so simple black and white shapes and patterns are most engaging.

Kids spend a lot of time with their toys, so it's good for parents to know those toys are safe. A toy that is not age appropriate is generally not a great choice. It is equally important to be sure that the toy is good for their developmental stage. Even though toy manufacturers include targeted age groups on packaging, you still need to make the call, and not permit your child to play with toys that may lead to eye injury or vision loss.

Toys need to be of decent quality, and not have details that might break off. And if they're painted, make sure it's not with anything that might be toxic. Everyone knows children can be a little reckless, but they need to look out for airborne objects and other things in the playground, like swinging ropes that can strike the eye. If the eye does get hit, it can lead to a corneal abrasion, or pop a blood vessel in the eye (also called a sub-conjunctival hemorrhage). Other times, the result of the hit can manifest years later, in the form of something as serious as glaucoma.

Avoid toys with edges or any sharp parts for little ones, and be sure that long-handled toys such as pony sticks or toy brooms have rounded handles. Closely watch toddlers when they play with those kinds of toys.

If your child is under 6, stay clear of toys projectiles, such as slingshots. Even when they're older than 6, always supervise kids playing with toys like that. Whereas, if you have older kids who enjoy chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they are wearing protective eyewear.

When you're next looking to buy gifts for the holidays, birthdays or other special occasions, take note of the toy makers' recommendation about the intended age range for the toy you had in mind. Make sure that toys you buy won't pose any risk to your child - even if your child really wants it.