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Playing Safe

Of course, parents worry about the eye safety of their kids. But it can be a challenge to know how to choose the toys that are the safest and most educational.

Children are born with an only partially developed visual system. There aren't many things that stimulate a child's visual development better than toys that encourage hand-eye coordination and a more concrete understanding of spaces and distances between objects. The best toys that stimulate a baby's visual development in his or her first year include mobiles with geometric patterns or bright primary colors and play mats that have interactive or removable objects, puppets and balls. In the first three months of life, babies can't fully see color, so objects with bold, black and white patterns can be really beneficial.

Kids spend a lot of time with their toys, so it's good for parents to know those toys are safe. To be safe, a toy must be right for their age group. Hand-in-hand with making sure to keep toys age-appropriate is to be sure that toys are developmentally appropriate, too. Although companies indicate age and developmental appropriateness on toy packaging, it is up to you to make the call, and not allow your son or daughter to play with toys that may result in eye injury or vision loss.

Blocks are great for almost every age group, but for younger children, it's crucial to check that there are no sharp or rough parts, to decrease the risk of danger to the eyes, or any other part of the body. Toy size is another important thing to take note of. The general rule with toddlers is that any object that is small enough to fit in their mouth is not recommended. Be on the lookout for objects that can be manipulated into a smaller size also. It's advised to put small toys aside until your son or daughter is more appropriately aged.

Avoid toys with edges or any sharp parts for a young child, and be sure that long-handled toys such as pony sticks or toy brooms have rounded handles. Always pay attention when they play with such toys.

For kids younger than 6, avoid toys projectiles, such as slingshots. Even when they're older than 6, always closely watch kids playing with those kinds of toys. On the other hand, for older kids who have chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they wear correct safety eyewear.

So when looking to buy gifts for a holiday or birthday, take note of the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Be certain that there's no danger posed to your child's eyes.

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