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Let’s Play Safe: Eye Safety and Children

It can be a challenge to know which toys are not harmful for our children's eyes.

Babies are born with an immature visual system which, through stimulation, becomes more refined throughout their growing years. There aren't many things that help a child's visual development more efficiently than playing, which involves hand-eye coordination and learning about spatial relationships. Good toys that stimulate a baby's vision in his or her first year include mobiles with geometric patterns or colors, and activities that have interactive or removable objects, balls, books and puppets. In the initial three months of life, a baby's ability to see color hasn't properly formed, so high contrast black and white pictures of things like bulls-eyes or checkerboard patterns are really helpful for encouraging visual development.

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 usually not a great choice. Hand-in-hand with age appropriateness is to be sure that the toy is developmentally appropriate, too. Although toy manufacturers include age and developmental appropriateness on the box, it's still important for you to be smart, so your child avoids playing with something that could be unsafe.

Blocks are a safe and useful option for kids of many ages, but for younger children, you need to inspect them for sharp edges, to lessen the possibility of harm. You should also take note of toy size. The general rule with toddlers is that a toy that can fit into their mouths is not recommended. Be watchful of toys that can be pressed or shaped into a smaller size as well. Put that small toy away until your son or daughter is older.

Stuffed, plush toys are best if machine washable, and, especially when it comes to smaller children, without any tiny parts to pull off, like buttons, sequins or bows. Don't buy toys that have points or edges or sharp components for little kids, and if your kids have toys with long handles, like pony sticks, always make sure the end is rounded. Closely watch toddlers when they play with those kinds of toys.

If your child is under 6 years old, stay clear of toys which shoot, like dart guns. Always pay close attention with those kinds of toys. Whereas, for older kids who enjoy chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always make sure they have safety goggles.

So the next time you're shopping for a gift, take note of the toy makers' warning about the intended age group for the toy you had in mind. Ensure that there's no danger posed to your child's eyes - even if they look fun to play with.

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