Children’s Vision

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, more than a quarter of a million children were seen in the nation's hospital emergency departments in 2017 due to toy-related injuries.

boy avoiding aerosol chemical string

Aerosol string that hits the eye can cause a painful irritation of the eye called chemical pink eye.

Nearly half of these injuries were to the head and face, and many were eye injuries.

Of the 251,700 estimated toy-related injuries treated in emergency departments in 2017, approximately 69 percent of the injuries affected children 12 years of age or younger, and 36 percent happened to children younger than 5 years of age.

But eye safety often is the last thing on people's minds when buying toys for children.

Online surveys conducted by 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

toy fishing poles dangerous for eye injuries

Toy fishing poles can be especially dangerous to the eyes of nearby children.

party foam dangerous for eye injuries

Party foam can cause a chemical burn to the eyes that can result in red eyes, blurred vision and eye infections.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Toy wands, swords, sabers or guns with bayonets. There's really no need to explain why these are a bad idea, right?
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

"10 Worst Toys of 2018" list

World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) is a nonprofit organization that was founded to protect children from harm (and even death) from unsafe toys. At the beginning of the holiday season each year, the organization releases its list of 10 nominees for the year's worst toys.

Here are three toys on the W.A.T.C.H. "10 Worst Toys of 2018" list that are particularly dangerous to children's eyes:

Nerf Vortex VTX Praxis Blaster. This colorful plastic gun — marketed by Hasbro to children as young as 8 years old — can fire 10 disc-shaped "darts" in a row with "pump-action blasting."

Marvel Black Panther Slash Claw. Based on a popular comic book and movie character, this toy features hard plastic claws for children as young as age 5 to "slash" like the Black Panther, while the packaging also advises users not to "hit or swing at people" with it. Marketed by Hasbro.

Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Superstar Blade. (No, we're not kidding.) Recommended by the manufacturer (Bandai) for children 4 years of age and older, this is a spring-loaded plastic blade that looks like a flame-tipped sword. The toy's packaging includes these warnings: "CAUTION: Spring-loaded. Do not aim at eyes or face"; "Do not 1) aim toy at anyone, 2) hit anyone with toy, 3) poke anyone with toy, 4) swing at anyone."

To see the entire "10 Worst Toys of 2018" list and learn more about hazardous toys, visit the W.A.T.C.H. website .

Many well-known retailers carry eye-hazardous toys, including Amazon, Walmart and Target. You can send these retailers a message by refusing to buy such products.

Tips for choosing eye-safe toys

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 December 2018