As we’re in the middle of toy buying season, here are a few safety tips to keep in mind. These guidelines are not absolute; The best toy for a child also takes into account their individual interests, abilities and responsibilities.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 198,000 toy-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms in 2020. 47 percent of the estimated injuries were to the head and face, the most commonly affected area of the body.
Some propulsion toys, such as airsoft guns, darts, paintball guns, and darts, can be particularly dangerous and can cause serious eye injuries, including scratching the surface of the eye, bleeding inside the eye, cataracts, increased eye pressure, and even permanent vision loss. It is best to refrain from purchasing projectile-firing toys for safety reasons. However, when your children play with this type of toy, everyone, including adults, should follow/wear recommended protection, including eye protection, to prevent flying objects from injuring their eyes.
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An estimated 17% of eye injuries in children are caused by bullet-type toys or toys with hard edges or detachable parts. Look for toys that are marked “ASTM,” which means the product meets national safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Do not allow your children to play with non-powder guns, pellets or BB guns. Extremely dangerous, they have been reclassified as firearms and removed from toy departments.
Teenagers are particularly vulnerable in the excitement of the holidays. The Illinois Society for the Prevention of Blindness makes the following recommendations:
1. Pay attention to how and where your children or grandchildren play with their toys. There is no substitute for adult supervision.
2. Keep inappropriate toys away from children who are too young or inexperienced to use them properly.
3. Make sure the toy won’t break when handled roughly or hit hard.
4. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for proper toy use and age appropriateness.
5. Ensure that the laser product labels include a statement that the device complies with 21 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Subchapter J.
Babies like toys that stimulate their senses, especially those that are colorful and easy to manipulate. They should not have any sharp edges, points or parts that could be a choking hazard. Everything should be made of non-toxic materials. Floating bath toys and stacking toys are always favorites.
Toddlers need toys for active play, like balls or a wagon. Building blocks and simple puzzles are good at this age, as are picture books.
Preschoolers like to use their imagination. Dolls, teddy bears, toy phones, airplanes, cars and boats are all appropriate here. Larger outdoor toys, like a swing set or tricycle, promote balance and fitness. Parlor games, word and assignment games, construction sets, modeling clay and other painting materials help with visualization and memory. Books are always appreciated, especially when someone is reading along.
School-age children ride bicycles (with helmets!), roller skate, jump rope and play sports. Don’t forget that sports equipment, a popular gift, should also include safety goggles. Nearly 30,000 sports-related eye injuries are treated in US emergency departments each year. Science, model making and craft kits encourage experimentation and fine motor skills. Board games, tabletop sports games, dollhouses, racing cars, and electric trains also help children develop social and solitary play skills.
Video games are a mixed blessing. On the other hand, staring at a video screen can dry out your eyes and lead to blurry eyes, itching, and burning. Headaches (both in players and parents) and other symptoms of eyestrain can also occur. There is growing concern in eye health circles about the increase in myopia (short-sightedness) in children. Both genetics and environmental factors play a key role in myopia. But the recent, dramatic rise in cases appears to be driven by environmental factors. People are spending less time outdoors and more time in work-related activities like screen time and reading. Children who develop myopia early in life and progress to severe myopia are 50% more likely to develop glaucoma, 17% more likely to need cataract surgery, and six times more likely to develop retinal detachments and retinal tears. On the plus side, video games in moderation can help with eye-hand coordination, and some can be educational.
One last note: if you were there on Christmas morning, you know that quite a few young children are more interested in wrapping paper and boxes than presents. Be careful as these can be dangerous toys.
Keep it simple and have a safe and happy holiday.
The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider.
dr William Benevento is a board certified ophthalmologist. He practices at Eye Surgeons Associates in Bettendorf. Visit esaeyecare.com for more information.