Toys and Eye Safety
Choosing the right toys for eye safety is a concern for every parent.
Children are born with an underdeveloped visual system that grows with them. As part of normal infant vision development, newborns can see objects only up close, and toddlers and preschoolers commonly are farsighted. Also, some school-age children need eyeglasses.
Throughout their growing years, children are visually stimulated. Nothing stimulates a child's vision more easily than a toy.
Keep in mind that most childhood accidents occur at home, many with toys. Children spend a great deal of time playing with their toys, so you need to make sure those toys are safe for overall health as well as eye safety.
Usually when toys are not safe, it's because they are not age-appropriate for the child.
How to Size Up Toys
Hand-in-hand with age appropriateness is making sure the toy is developmentally appropriate. Smaller pieces can be found in toys labeled for children age 3 and up. If your 4-year-old stills likes to put things in her mouth, these toys are not developmentally appropriate for her.
Blocks are safe for almost all ages, but make sure the corners and edges are blunted, to reduce the risk of eye injury. These are Peek-a-Blocks, by Fisher-Price.
Toy size also is important. If a toy is large enough not to fit into a child's mouth but can be manipulated into a smaller size, put the toy away until your child is older.
Make sure your child's toys are sturdily constructed so they won't break or fall apart with reasonable play, and double-check that any paints or finishes are non-toxic and not likely to peel or flake off.
Stuffed, plush toys should be machine washable, and, for younger children, made without tiny pieces to pull off, such as buttons or ribbons.
Avoid toys with sharp or rough edges or pieces. Make sure long-handled toys such as a pony stick, broom or vacuum have rounded handles, and closely supervise toddlers with such toys.
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More on What Toys to Avoid
Avoid toys that shoot objects in the air such as slingshots, dart guns or arrows for children under 6, and closely supervise any child playing with such toys. If your older child plays with a chemistry set or woodworking tools, provide him or her with safety goggles.
When shopping for the holidays, birthdays or other special occasions, pay special attention to the age or developmental recommendations on toys. Such recommendations are there for a reason. Many parents, grandparents or well-meaning friends think a toy is "neat" or "looks fun to play with," when for safety reasons such toys should not be offered to a child of a certain age.
For more information, please read our article, "Toys to Avoid to Keep Your Child's Eyes Safe," including some of the toys from the latest Worst Toys List from World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.).
Following are some suggestions for age-appropriate toys for children to stimulate their visual development, develop hand-eye coordination and understand spatial relationships.
Birth to 12 months. Brightly colored mobiles (make sure the colors and detail on the mobile pieces face down to the child, not up to the parent), rattles, balls, stuffed animals, activity gyms, blocks, stacking/nesting toys, pouring toys (such as measuring cups).
1-year-olds. Finger paints, modeling clay, board books, balls, stuffed animals, blocks, stacking/nesting toys, pouring toys (such as measuring cups), riding toys, puzzles, shape sorters, musical toys.
2-year-olds. Finger paints, modeling clay, chalkboard and chalk, felt board and felt pieces, board books as well as standard books, balls, stuffed animals, stacking/nesting toys, pouring toys (such as measuring cups), riding toys, puzzles, shape sorters, musical toys, swings, dress-up clothes, child-sized household toys and items (broom, vacuum, rake, lawn mower), toy typewriter or cash register, child-sized kitchen area (refrigerator, stove, microwave, sink, cupboard, table and chairs), sandbox, kiddie pool, toddler tape player, stringing beads, sewing toys, magnetic letters, climbing toys (such as backyard gyms or playscapes).
3- to 6-year-olds. Large crayons, large markers, finger paints, modeling clay, chalkboard and chalk, felt board and felt pieces, doctor/nurse kit, books, balls, stuffed animals, tricycle or bicycle, puzzles, musical toys, swings, dress-up clothes, child-sized household toys and items (broom, vacuum, rake, lawn mower), toy typewriter or cash register, child-sized kitchen area (refrigerator, stove, microwave, sink, cupboard, table and chairs), sandbox, kiddie pool, child CD player, stringing beads, magnetic letters, climbing toys (such as backyard gyms or playscapes), toy computer or computer games, toy camera with film, basketball set, board games, roller skates.
7- to 10-year-olds. Crayons, markers, finger paints, modeling clay, arts and crafts kits, sewing toys, books, balls, stuffed animals, bicycle, puzzles, musical toys or musical instruments, swings, dress-up clothes, sandbox, kiddie pool, tape player, toy computer or computer games, camera with film, board games, science items (such as microscope, telescope and chemistry sets), roller skates, skateboard, jump rope, sports equipment, electric train set.
[Page updated November 2013]