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An Eye on Toy Safety

Of course, moms and dads worry about keeping their kids' eyes safe. But it can be difficult to know which toys are the safest and most conducive to development.

Babies don't have a fully developed visual system at birth, but it becomes more refined over time. Nothing stimulates a child's visual development more easily than play, which encourages hand-eye coordination and a clearer understanding of spaces and distances between objects. Until they're 3 months old, babies can't totally differentiate between colors, so toys with strong, black and white pictures can be stimulating for them.

Since kids spend so much time using toys, parents need to be sure that their toys are safe for their eyes as well as their overall safety. Kids should play with toys especially created for their own age group. And it is just as important to make sure that the toy is developmentally appropriate, too. Although toy manufacturers indicate targeted age groups on the box, it is up to you to be alert, and be sure your child avoids playing with anything that could be unsafe.

A safe and educational toy for lots of age groups is blocks, but for younger children, it's crucial to check that they don't have any sharp or rough parts, to decrease the chance of harm. And don't forget to look at the size of toys. If you have little children a toy that is mouth size is not something they should be playing with. Be on the lookout for toys that can be manipulated into a smaller size also. Put that small toy away until your son or daughter is more appropriately aged.

Any plush toys should be machine washable, and, especially when it comes to smaller children, made without tiny pieces can easily come off, such as buttons or ribbons. Don't buy toys that have points or edges or sharp components for little ones, and if your kids have toys with long handles, like pony sticks, always make sure the ends aren't sharp. Always pay attention when they play with such toys.

For kids younger than 6, avoid toys which shoot, such as slingshots. Even when they're older than 6, always pay close attention with toys like that. Whereas, when it comes to teens who play with chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always check that they are wearing safety goggles.

When you're next looking to buy gifts for the holidays, birthdays or other special occasions, pay attention to the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Ensure that toys you buy won't pose any risk to your child's eyes - even if they look really fun.