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Toys and Eye Safety

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

Children are born with an only partially developed visual system. Nothing stimulates a child's visual development more efficiently than play, which involves hand-eye coordination and a more concrete understanding of spaces and distances between objects. Ideal toys that stimulate an infant's visual development in their first year of life include geometric mobiles or bright contrasting colors and play mats that have interactive or removable objects, balls, books and puppets. Until they're 3 months old, babies can't fully differentiate between colors, so simple black and white pictures are most engaging.

Since kids spend a great deal of time using their toys, moms and dads must be sure that their toys are safe for both their overall health, and their vision. Firstly, to be safe, a toy should be age-appropriate. And up there with age appropriateness is to check that the toy is developmentally appropriate, too. Even though toy manufacturers indicate targeted age groups on toy packaging, it's still important for you to make the call, and prevent your son or daughter from playing with toys that may lead to eye injury or vision loss.

Blocks are a safe and useful choice for kids of most ages, but for younger children, you need to inspect them for sharp edges and corners, to reduce the possibility of eye injury. Also, make judgements based on toy size. With toddlers, a toy that is small enough to fit in their mouth is not recommended. Put that small toy away until your child is no longer at risk of choking.

Stuffed, plush toys are best if machine washable, and, for younger children, free of very small parts to pull off, like buttons, sequins or bows. Don't buy toys with edges or any sharp parts for young children, and if your kids have toys with long handles, like pony sticks, always make sure the end is rounded. Always pay attention when they play with those kinds of toys.

For kids younger than 6, avoid toys which shoot, like dart guns. 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 teens who play with chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they have protective eyewear.

When you're next looking to buy gifts for a holiday or birthday, take note of the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Be certain that toys you buy won't pose any harm to your child - even if it looks like lots of fun.