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Playing Safe

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Understandably, moms and dads are concerned with keeping their kids' eyes safe. But it can be a challenge to know which toys are the safest and most conducive to development.

Children are born with only semi-formed vision. Few things stimulate a child's visual development more easily than play, which encourages hand-eye coordination and learning about spatial relationships. Good toys for stimulating an infant's visual development in their first year of life include mobiles with geometric patterns or colors, and activity gyms with detachable and changeable objects, puppets and balls. Between the ages of 0-3 months, a baby's color vision hasn't properly formed, so high contrast black and white images of things like bulls-eyes or checkerboard patterns are particularly conducive to stimulating visual development.

Since kids spend a large amount of their day playing with toys, moms and dads must make sure their toys are safe for both their overall health, and their vision. Kids should be given toys that are made for their specific age group. It is equally important to be sure that the toy is suited to their developmental stage. Even though toy manufacturers indicate targeted age groups on the box, it is up to you to be alert, and prevent your son or daughter from playing with anything that could cause eye injury and loss of vision.

Blocks are suited to almost every age group, but for younger children, it's crucial to check that they don't have any sharp or rough parts, to decrease the possibility of danger to the eyes, or any other part of the body. Also, make judgements based on toy size. The general rule with toddlers is that any object that can fit into their mouths is not something they should be playing with. It's best to put small toys aside until your son or daughter is no longer at risk of choking.

Don't buy toys with edges or any sharp parts for a young child, and be sure that things with long sticks, like pony sticks or toy brooms have rounded handles. Always pay attention when they play with those kinds of toys.

For children below 6 years old, stay clear of toys projectiles, such as slingshots. Even if a child is old enough to play with such toys, you still need to closely watch kids playing with toys like that. Whereas, if you have older kids who have chemistry sets or woodworking tools, always make sure they wear protective eyewear.

So the next time you're thinking about gifts, take note of the age and developmental recommendations on toys. Ensure that there's no danger posed to your child - even if it looks like lots of fun.