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An Eye on Toy Safety

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

Children are born with a primitive visual system which, through stimulation, becomes more refined throughout their growing years. There aren't many things that stimulate a child's visual development better than playing, which involves hand-eye coordination and a deeper understanding of spatial relationships. In the initial three months of life, a baby's ability to see color hasn't really developed, so simple black and white images of things like bulls-eyes or checkerboard patterns are particularly conducive to encouraging visual development.

Children spend a lot of time with their toys, so it's good for parents to know those toys are safe. Children should play with toys that are made for their specific age group. And up there with age appropriateness is to make sure that the toy is developmentally appropriate, too. Even though companies mention 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.

Toys should always be well-made, without parts that might break and end up in the mouth of a toddler. And if they're painted, make sure it's not with a product toxic or harmful. We all know that children can be just a bit reckless, but they need to look out for balls and other things in the playground, like swinging ropes that might hit 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 impact can show up years after the event, as a contributing cause of glaucoma or a premature cataract.

Avoid toys that have points or edges or any sharp parts for a little kid, and check 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.

For children younger than 6, stay clear of toys which shoot, like slingshots. Even if a child is old enough to play with such toys, you still need to pay close attention with those kinds of toys. On the other hand, when it comes to older kids who have chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they wear protective eyewear.

So the next time you're thinking about a special gift for your child, take note of the company's recommendation about the intended age range for the toy you had in mind. Ensure that toys you buy won't pose any harm to your child – even if they look fun to play with.