Understandably, moms and dads are concerned with the eye safety of their kids. But it can be a challenge 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. There aren’t many things that help a child’s visual development better than play, which involves hand-eye coordination and a more concrete understanding of spaces and distances between objects. Until they’re 3 months old, babies can’t fully see color, so high contrast black and white images of things like shapes and simple patterns are particularly conducive to encouraging visual development.
Kids spend a considerable amount of time with their toys, so it’s good for parents to know if those toys are safe or not. To be safe, a toy must be age-appropriate. Hand-in-hand with age appropriateness is to make sure that the toy is good for their level of development. Even though toy companies specify targeted age groups on packaging, it is up to you to make the call, and be attentive, so that your son or daughter avoids playing with anything that might be dangerous for them.
Make sure your child’s toys are well-made so they won’t break or fall apart when they’re used, and be sure any coating (like paint) is not harmful in any way and won’t flake, as small particles can easily get into eyes. It’s important to let kids be rowdy sometimes, but they should always be on the look out for balls and other things in the playground, like swinging ropes that can strike the eye. If something like that does happen, 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 visible harm, the result of the hit can appear years after the event, as a contributing cause of something as serious as glaucoma.
Stuffed, plush toys should be machine washable, and, especially when it comes to smaller children, without any very small parts that can be pulled off, like buttons, sequins or bows. Avoid toys with edges or any sharp parts for little ones, 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 kids younger than 6, be wary of toys with flying parts, like slingshots. Even if a child is old enough to play with such toys, you still need to pay attention with toys like that. Whereas, when it comes to older kids who enjoy chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always make sure they are wearing protective eyewear.
So the next time you’re shopping for a gift, keep a close eye out for the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Make sure that toys you buy don’t pose any risk to your child’s eyes – even if your child really wants it.