Toys to Avoid to Keep Your
Child's Eyes Safe
What child doesn't like toys? And what parent or grandparent doesn't enjoy buying a fun gift for their young loved ones?
But some toys that look really fun can pose a serious risk of eye injuries including serious injuries that can result in permanent vision loss.
Toy-Related Eye Injuries
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, roughly a quarter of a million children are seen in the nation's hospital emergency departments each year due to toy-related injuries.
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Nearly half of these injuries are to the head and face, and many are eye injuries. And about 35 percent of toy-related injuries are sustained by children under age 5.
But eye safety is often the last thing on people's minds when buying toys for children.
Online surveys conducted recently by AllAboutVision.com revealed that 41 percent of parents either "rarely" or "never" considered eye safety when choosing toys for their kids.
At the same time, when asked whether any of the toys their children own could cause harm to their eyes, 54 percent of parents responded "definitely," and 22 percent said "possibly."
Common eye injuries caused by mishaps with toys can range from a minor scratch to the front surface of the eye (called a corneal abrasion) to very serious, sight-threatening injuries such as corneal ulcers, traumatic cataracts, bleeding inside the eye and retinal detachment.
Clearly, it's time for some rethinking about how we buy toys, to protect children's eyes from damage.
Six Kinds of Toys That Pose a High Risk for Eye Injuries
Here's a list of six types of toys you might want to cross off your list when buying gifts for young children. Each has a high potential risk for eye injuries especially if used by young children without adult supervision and guidance:
- Guns that shoot ANY type of projectile. This includes toy guns that shoot lightweight, cushy darts. You might think these soft projectiles would pose little or no risk, but toy guns of this type can shoot up to distances of 75 feet, and the darts move at speeds fast enough to cause a serious eye injury especially when used at close range indoors. Examples: Nerf Vortex Nitron; Nerf Rebelle Sweet Revenge Dart Kit (both by Hasbro).
- Water balloon launchers and water guns. Water balloons can cause serious blunt trauma to the eye that can cause a retinal detachment and permanent vision loss. Even toy guns that shoot a stream of water can cause serious eye damage, especially when used at close range. Examples: SuperSoaker Scatter Blast Water Blaster (SuperSoaker); Nerf Super Soakers (Hasbro); Water Sports TL-500 Stream Machine (Water Sports); Water Blaster XLR Water Cannon (Water Blaster).
- Games that include toy fishing poles. The end of a toy fishing pole or objects secured to the end of the fishing line can easily end up in a playmate's eye. Examples: Ertl John Deere Electronic Fishing Pole (Tomy); Catch of the Day (Small World Toys).
- Toy wands, swords, sabers or guns with bayonets. There's really no need to explain why these are a bad idea, right? Examples: Deluxe Ninja LED Sword (FlashingBlinkyLights); Rapid Fire Machine Gun with Revolving Bullet Belt, Bayonet, Lights & Sounds (Combat 3); Rapid Fire Machine Gun with Lights & Sound (Forces of Valor).
- Aerosol string. The chemicals in these products can cause eye irritation and a type of pink eye called chemical conjunctivitis. When used at close range, aerosol string also can cause a corneal abrasion that could lead to serious eye infections. Examples: Silly String (Silly String Products); Streamer String (Amscan); Turbo Spackle String Blaster (Big Time Toys).
- Laser pointers and bright flashlights. Though technically not toys, many children love to play "laser tag" or "flashlight tag." Portable laser pointers, like those used for business presentations, should never be used by children, as the light intensity of these devices is sufficient to cause permanent vision loss. Even high-powered LED flashlights can be dangerous, because they can cause temporary blindness, putting children at risk of a fall or other accident.
W.A.T.C.H. List of Worst Toys for 2015
World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) is devoted to protecting children from unsafe toys, and each year during the holiday season, the organization releases a list of 10 nominees for the year's worst toys.
Before you shop for toys, take a look at the four items below. All are on the 2015 list, and all could be hazardous to kids' eyes.
Jurassic World Velociraptor Claws by Hasbro are labeled as suitable for ages 4+, allowing kids to "claw like a raptor." W.A.T.C.H. says that no warnings are included about potential injuries to the eyes and face.
Once again a play sword made the W.A.T.C.H. list this time it's the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Leonardo Electronic Stealth Sword by Playmates International Company Ltd. Made of rigid plastic, the blade could cause eye and facial injuries, especially in the hands of the 4-year-olds for whom the packaging recommends it.
Similar to a slingshot, the Zooma Splat X Smack Shot by Imperial Toy LLC at least has warnings on the package that hopefully the recommended 8-year-old users will heed, including "Warning: Do not aim or shoot at people or animals." The enclosed sticky plastic "ammunition" is claimed to be capable of traveling up to 100 feet, so eye injuries could result if (or when?) children don't pay attention to the warnings.
Our final excerpt from the 2015 W.A.T.C.H. list elicited a "you have got to be kidding me" reaction from our co-workers. Well, it's no joke: this toy gun not only poses a risk of eye injury from the fast-moving darts, it could get any child who's playing with it in public killed because of how realistic it looks. The Foam Dart Gun by GD. Jiefeng Toys does carry warnings about aiming at the eyes and face. But why would the package say it's for kids as young as 3 years? W.A.T.C.H. reminds us that even though some places have regulations about the hazards of realistic-looking toy weapons, those laws have not prevented tragic deaths associated with their use. We are begging everyone who reads this: Please do not buy this product!
Many well-known retailers carry eye-hazardous toys like these, including Amazon, Walmart, Target, Toys R Us and Kohl's. Ebay is another big source. You can send these retailers a message by refusing to buy such products. To view the complete list of 2015 nominees for "10 Worst Toys," please visit the W.A.T.C.H. website.
Eye-Safe Toy Shopping Tips
If you are buying toys for grandchildren or the children of other relatives or friends, ask for suggestions from the child's parents. Discuss any toys you are thinking about purchasing before doing so, to make sure the child's parents are okay with the type of toy you are considering.
Also, it's usually best to shop for children's toys in a store rather than online so you can see the toy's features up close to help you decide if it's safe enough for a young child.
Although toy packaging usually includes a recommended age range of children for whom the toy was designed, keep in mind that these are general guidelines only. A toy that may be appropriate for one child may not be safe for another child of the same age, depending on their level of maturity and personality.
In fact, age ranges on toy labels often defy common sense. We saw a pointy toy sword online that was labeled as suitable for 3-year-olds!
Also, keep in mind when buying toys for older children that they may have younger siblings who could have access to the toys. So a new toy may not end up in the hands of the child you bought it for.
For more tips on choosing toys that are age-appropriate and eye-safe, please read our article, "Toys and Eye Safety."
[Page updated November 2015]